Having won the Fleet News Awards 'best compact SUV' for the Nissan Juke, the manufacturer is confident it has good products, but is aiming higher.
Good product alone will not deliver fleet sales success to Nissan, according to the manufacturer’s new fleet sales director, Iker Lazzari.
Instead, customer experience will be key to its future fleet offering, with small fleets receiving the same service delivery as larger corporate clients.
Lazzari is currently putting the finishing touches to a new fleet sales strategy, three months after making the switch from the VW Group where he had spent all his working life – some 18 years.
During his time with the German manufacturer, he held several different roles, including the setting-up of Group Fleet Services, which was an initiative to overcome the duplication of different brands for common customers.
More recently, he was head of sales and marketing at Volkswagen Financial Services – the manufacturer’s leasing division.
However, looking for a new challenge and noticing how electric vehicles (EVs) and mobility were coming to the fore, Lazzari saw Nissan as the perfect fit.
“There was no better place to learn about EVs than from the market leader,” he says.
New product, including Qashqai, X-Trail and Micra also impressed Lazzari and the opportunity to package a fleet offering for the market sealed the deal.
“I think a number of people in the marketplace don’t quite understand the strength and depth of product that we have at Nissan,” he says.
Lazzari wants to change that.
Fleet News: How does it feel now you’re three months into the job?
Iker Lazzari (IL): It feels like I’ve been here for longer than that, because I’ve been made to feel so welcome and I’ve really immersed myself in the business as much as I can.
However, it’s not an awful lot of time to really change anything; the first three months have really been about evaluation and setting the new strategy.
That’s virtually complete so in another three-to-six months I can start speaking about the things that we’ve done and the things we’re continuing to do.
But we’ve got a great opportunity to really push the fleet brand forward and, utilising some of my previous background skills as national contract hire and leasing manager at Volkswagen, to build a strategy that is not only internally focused, but is also externally focused.
All I can say is that there are some really positive and exciting things coming forward that ultimately will benefit all of the stakeholders in fleet, from the dealer network to the leasing companies and our corporate customers.
FN: In terms of service delivery to fleets, whether small, medium or large, what are hoping to achieve?
IL: What I’m aiming to do is harmonise that level of service for all corporate customers and leasing companies alike. We want them to walk into more and more of our dealers and get the same level of excellent fleet service. It’s vital.
FN: How would you describe the current state of fleet?
IL: It’s the most challenging market we’ve seen for many years due to a lack of confidence.
Consumer and businesses confidence is at a low point and, as a consequence, people are potentially holding off in terms of investment.
It’s also really competitive because of the product out there, but that’s a challenge we’re meeting.
We just need to ensure people know who we are, what we’re about and what we can do. Our expertise and being obsessed about customer experience is key.
FN: Is having good product not enough to guarantee sales success anymore?
IL: It’s such a competitive market place, with so many manufacturers offering good quality product, it needs to be more than that, particularly in a B2B or fleet environment. That’s why customer experience and trust in the brand is vital.
However, I have joined Nissan at the right time.
We had just launched Micra when I joined which is now a different car altogether.
We also have number one share in crossover. Qashqai just got better and X-trail, which has been further developed in terms of technology and styling, is brilliant.
Plus we have new Leaf coming next year.
FN: Are concerns around air quality driving more interest in EVs?
IL: Most definitely. It is one of the most, if not the most topical conversations out there in fleet.
Whether it’s corporate customers, leasing companies, rental companies, everybody is looking for some guidance.
We can offer support and help their understanding about how EV can fit with their fleet policy.
We’re fortunate to have the product that is appropriate for those customers.
FN: How do you ensure dealers and leasing companies can offer the correct advice around the suitability of EVs to end-user fleets?
IL: With technology changing so rapidly, we’ve got to stay on the front foot with the information that is provided to customers.
Fortunately, Nissan has a very good internal communications strategy whereby we’re continually updating staff.
We hold various updates about new product or specific technologies which are disseminated to our network.
However, I do think it’s a challenge if I’m honest and that’s why we absolutely need to be driving that agenda forward.
We need to help people understand the technologies; we need to keep abreast of the econometric information and the legislation, as well as macros factors, too.
FN: What’s your view on the Government continuing to incentivise EVs through the plug-in grant?
IL: It’s an enabler for people to move into the EV arena across cars and commercials.
FN: Is there an appetite for plug-in vans in the fleet market?
IL: We’ve got a great product and we’ve got some really good case studies of where companies have trialled the e-NV200 and are now adopting it in larger volumes.
I think, ultimately, what it’s down to is where the vans are being used, because it’s all about the charging infrastructure.
They can be ideal for inner city use and we’re getting more and more interest from companies that have commercial vehicles on fleet.
But, with our product line-up from cars to commercials and EV around both, we can provide fleets with that one-stop shop.
Nissan’s new Leaf will have an increased range of 235 miles and the introduction of its latest autonomous driving technology.
The new Leaf will aim to embrace the early steps of advanced driver assistance with the introduction of Nissan’s ProPilot autonomous driving system, ProPilot Park and the e-Pedal concept, which is said to allow drivers to control the car using a single foot pedal.
ProPilot can automatically control distance to the vehicle in front at a pre-set speed – even in stop/start traffic – and will maintain the Leaf’s position within a lane.
ProPilot Park will give the vehicle autonomous parking capabilities while the e-Pedal, which will come as standard on all new Leafs, allows drivers to accelerate and brake using one pedal thanks to the regenerative braking power.
No prices for the new car have yet been released, but the new Leaf will go on sale across Europe in January next year.
Lazarri says: “New Leaf is a game-changer and I’m so excited at being able over the next few months to release more information about this vehicle to fleet.
“Ultimately, I want to go to corporate customers to ask them to take the Leaf challenge. We want to help develop corporate customers’ fleet policies to focus more on electric vehicles.
“Clearly, it’s never going to be all-electric, but there is space and an opportunity to introduce electric vehicles, both in terms of our e-NV200 van and even more so, company car drivers and the new Leaf.”
The new Nissan Leaf replaces the first-generation model, which has become the world’s best-selling electric vehicle.
Nissan reported that more than 283,000 customers have chosen the Leaf since the model went on sale in 2010.