As part of the structural changes, PSA is investing in a new department within the corporate business called fleet operations. This back office function will be shared across the three brands and include three account managers, wholelife cost specialists and fleet admin – effectively pooling together everything beyond the customer-facing relationship. Fleet operations will be responsible for developing better, more efficient ways to work over the next 12 months which will benefit both PSA and its fleet customers.
The final remaining piece of the structural reshuffle involves leasing and rental. Peugeot national franchising manager Gareth Foden is to retire, with Frazer Grice moving into a group position.
“Feedback from the major leasing and rental companies is that they prefer to deal with one person, not two,” says Gurney. “It is all about residual value management and wholelife cost which is less a brand issue. It will be more effective for us and better for our customers.”
In addition to the four key areas involved with the fleet integration is a fifth area looking at SMEs – “the holy grail”, says Gurney.
This is the one area to remain completely brand-separate, with Nick Crossley taking the Peugeot role and Jeremy Smith the Citroën position. Both will report to the brand directors.
“We recognise that, where we are working with dealers to develop their business sales, we have to remain separate,” Gurney says. “There will be a notional dotted line to me but they are responsible for developing Peugeot, Citroën and DS with a proposition that remains separate.”
He adds: “Where we interact direct with our customer, i.e. where there is more focus on the brand, we are separate. It is logical to combine the back-office functions to save money and customers will see benefits because we will be easier to deal with.”
The three brands will operate under the same fleet strategy, one which mirrors the plan Gurney introduced to Peugeot just over a year ago. This consists of limiting exposure to so-called red channels – principally daily rental – and developing more profitable routes to market: corporate accounts, leasing and SMEs.
Gurney describes his group aspirations for cars as “achievable” for 2015, while also pointing to the clear distinctions between the three brands.
Citroën will focus on new models, C1 and C4 Cactus, and the SME market this year. There are no plans to grow daily rental. It is being positioned, according to PSA director of communications Andrew Didlick, as the “generalist brand, but with an edge, as summed up by the Cactus and Grand C4 Picasso. It is distinct and innovative and we will see that come more to the fore with future models”.
Peugeot is looking to grow by around 3,500 units, spread across the three true fleet channels, with further slight reductions in rental. It is being moved upmarket, focusing on interior quality and comfort. Both brands are targeted to have no more than 10% of their sales volume going into the rental market.
DS is on a journey in fleet; it is more of a long-term opportunity, although Gurney is convinced it has a role to play as a premium brand competing against Audi, BMW and Mercedes-Benz in the corporate market. The Citroën chevrons come off the DS5 from May production, with the DS3 and DS4 to follow suit later this year.
As well as the three brands remaining separate, PSA’s two UK leasing operations, Peugeot Contract Hire and Citroën Contract Motoring, will continue to be run separately.
'We are in a better place to grow now'
PSA Peugeot Citroën chairman Carlos Tavares visited the UK business in March to meet the senior team and address staff about the company’s growth strategy.
He has publicly praised the performance of the UK operation as he looks to turn around the fortunes of the European carmaker, partly by transforming it into a global manufacturer.
“Carlos Tavares is keen for us to invest in the areas of the business where it adds value,” Martin Gurney says.
“Where we are selling vehicles, there is more resource. We are in an infinitely better place to grow now than we were before.”
Bringing together the fleet operations, which mirrored similar moves in communications and parts, has not resulted in compulsory redundancies.
Staff losses – reported to be around 90 in total – have all been voluntary.
In fleet, the merger saw the headcount reduce from 14 to 12 (three members of the team took early retirement, leaving a gap for one new recruit).