Many impartial leasing commentators believe that manufacturer-owned contract hire companies are best-placed to seize future growth opportunities.
The FN50 supports their thinking: of the eight manufacturer-owned leasing companies in the 2012 list, five grew their risk fleet year-on-year.
Citroën Contract Motoring fits the template of a successful manufacturer leasing company.
And it is striving to become more than simply a funder by forging stronger partnerships with its fleet customers to drive sales and build retention.
Its approach appears to be working. Over the past two years Citroën Contract Motoring has grown 30% year-on-year, and now has a risk fleet of more than 26,700 vehicles.
Seventy per cent are cars (all Citroëns). Duncan Chumley, head of Citroën Contract Motoring, believes they will continue to fuel growth as he puts greater emphasis on making van fleets more aware of the offers available on cars.
“Our business centres have had more focus on vans,” says Chumley.
“They are now making more of our van customers aware of the offers for cars. In a lot of cases companies run both cars and vans and it made sense for us to target both.”
The introduction of the DS range has been a key contributor in attracting more customers to the brand.
Of the 36,000 DS3s sold in the UK last year, fleet accounted for 35% with 60% of these new to the marque.
“Product is a key winner for new business, but the financial products that sit behind them are also key,” Chumley says.
Chumley began his career at Citroën in 1999 in the fleet department and moved to the contract motoring arm in 2006 when the company was looking to bring in people with first-hand experience of fleet customers.
Citroën Contract Motoring employs 37 people split into different teams.
Citroën has 193 dealerships in the UK, including 90 business centres. Investing in training has played an important part in ensuring those dealerships provide the advice and assistance needed for fleet customers.
“When customers go into our dealerships they are looking for more than finance on a vehicle,” says Chumley.
“They want advice on the vehicles, CO2, tax laws and running costs. It becomes more of a relationship management than a sale.
"We differentiate ourselves by helping our customers find the answers and letting them know they can come to us for any of their fleet needs.”