IT’S probably not the first thing you’d do to your company car fleet – turn it into a dairy herd of yoghurt pots.
But when you are Yeo Valley Family Farms, there is a point. A very good marketing point.
Makers of dairy products – including yoghurts – Yeo Valley has switched its small fleet from posh Audis to Honda Civics and CR-Vs.
Having come from leasing company ALD originally, Leon Wilce has been with been with Honda for eight years now, always in a business to business function at dealer level
Leon joined Honda Bristol nearly three years ago and turned what was a loss making operation into what is a now a profitable corporate sales department.
“My interest has always been in B2B,” says Leon. ”I enjoy communicating with people. The whole concept of building long-term relationships is the most enjoyable aspect of the job.
“After 8 years these customers have become friends and servicing their requirements is really pleasing. Building understanding is key rather than expecting people to come to the dealership.
“We now have some established companies whose SME fleets are now all Honda – despite the issues we’ve had until recently with lack of suitable Honda product. Providing outstanding service is the key.”
“They will brand up five Civics in their yoghurt flavours! It’s a nicely quirky idea and will replace their smart cars that are currently branded like that,” explains Leon Wilce, Corporate Sales Manager for Honda in Bristol.
“Apparently you’ll be able to go to the website and see where the Blueberry Civic is!”
Leon says that Honda will now supply only Hondas to the 50-car small fleet having spent six months explaining the benefits of Honda and the cars’ whole life proposition to the company – on the Civic it’s hard to disagree with the fuel economy which we have found out on our Honda Civic diesel.
“One of the things they wanted to achieve was sourcing buy British – and they were running a fleet of German cars. And Civic and CR-V are both Swindon built,” continues Leon. “To date we have delivered 12 new Hondas, all of which have been well received by the drivers.”
The deal with Yeo Valley is typical of how local dealers can properly supply company cars to SME small fleets.
Leon says he has 75 small business customers with an average fleet size of eight cars.
“We have customers operating one car and customers operating 80 cars,” he says.
“The important thing for me is that I have a number of business customers who are into their third Honda – that bears testament to the eight years spent developing relationships.
“We support them with convenient after sales service. So we are happy to collect cars for service allowing them to focus on running their core business. We’re trying to make the Honda experience easy for them and convenient. And hassle free.
“We absolutely believe that our key to business success is getting bums on seats. Once they walk past the badge and appreciate the vehicle then it really does make a difference.
“So we offer a minimum of 24 hours in the car up to a week. We use our dedicated fleet of business to business cars, but can also tap in to the Honda Corporate fleet when necessary too.
“I don’t think we would have had same success if only offered car for an hour or accompanied test drive only.”
Leon says that generally SME small fleets customers want a compact car and a large car – keeping it simple. Compact cars go to the field force, larger cars to more senior management.
“We now have product that really suits this ‘split’ with the Civic diesel and now the new Honda CR-V 1.6 diesel coming on stream. And shortly we’ll be able to broaden that reach with the new Civic Tourer, all of which are good on CO2 emissions and running costs.”
What service should an SME expect from a local dealer?
Leon says that they should expect an initial professional contact, then a first meeting which is fact finding about the business and the fleet. This would then be followed up with a personalised proposal based on the first meeting.
“After that point we get a chance for product evaluation with decision makers and drivers and we ask for the business,” continues Leon.
“Once engaged with us we act as their fleet manager. So there’s a quarterly review and a local collection and delivery for servicing.
“We also have annual mileage reviews – so if you have car running significantly over or under then we have a free of charge review to avoid the possibility of excess charges and to lower rates if the mileage is not being covered.
“It means our customers are in control of their budgets without any unexpected surprises.”
Using contract hire to fund new company cars
The majority of Leon’s small fleet customers – some 80% – are using contract hire to fund their company cars. In Leon’s case, this is provided by Honda Contract Hire.
“They trust it,” says Leon, “it creates a one-stop shop for them so there’s the convenience factor and we can then handle everything for them – from pre-life, in-life and end of contract.
“And when it comes to renewal time, it’s because we’ve looked after them through the whole process – we’re not just a good deal on the day!”