On the face of it, 2011 was not a happy year for Citroën. In a van market up 16.71%, the French manufacturer’s sales were down 4.42%. But look behind the headline figures and a very different story emerges – a story in which business sense prevails over an insatiable desire for market share.
Scott Michael, Citroën’s commercial vehicle operations manager, told Fleet Van he believed last year’s massive increase in van sales was, to an extent, created by a rise in daily rental sales.
And in the rush to secure extra market share, some manufacturers had signed up to costly deals in this part of the market.
Michael says: “The daily rental market grew substantially last year as some fleets shied away from buying new vans in favour of renting them short term. We have never been big in the rental market out of choice but we looked at these deals and decided it was not a place where we wanted to be. Our policy is to go for profitable deals and that is why we lost some sales last year. But our strategy has proved a sound one because we made more profit per vehicle than in the previous year.”
So does this mean that Citroën will be backing off some of the larger fleet deals, in which the big operators invariably demand equally big discounts?
An emphatic no, says Michael. “We are continuing to talk with some of the UK’s biggest fleets like the large utility companies. These fleets are demanding to be sure but there is a halo effect to be considered here. When other fleets see major operators like this using our vehicles successfully and reliably, they are more likely to buy our product.”
In the past, Citroën has been renowned for its cut-throat deals but increasingly there is a feeling that buying the van is only one part of the equation. And while value for money is still near the top of the list, other factors are increasingly coming into play.
Michael says: “Van buyers are a lot more savvy than they were 10 years ago and we have to keep up with this. They now know all about such things as environmental credentials, taxation, residual values and running costs and expect a lot more than purely buying a van and driving off with it.”
And this is where Citroën scores highly. Despite the fact that its range of vans mirrors that of Peugeot and largely that of Fiat too, Michael feels that Citroën has far more to offer fleet buyers than the other two manufacturers.
For starters three out of the four ranges of Citroën panel vans feature as standard a neat Trafficmaster sat-nav unit that not only acts as a location finder but also as a stolen vehicle tracker and a fleet management tool – called Fleet Director – that can highlight bad driving habits among staff.
These units have just been updated with bigger colour screens and also contain a system which allows users to talk directly with staff at Trafficmaster HQ in Cranfield on a variety of matters from emergency situations to the location of the nearest Indian takeaway.
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