By Andrew Guile, key account manager, Michelin Tyre plc - An extract from the Managing your Company Cars book edited by Colin Tourick and produced in association with Fleet News
What is your role within Michelin and how long have you been in the industry?
My current role is as a Key Account Manager within the national car fleets team.
My portfolio of customers includes five of the UK’s leading contract hire companies.
I joined Michelin back in 1988 and worked in one of the regional sales offices dealing with telephone sales, technical queries, stock ordering and other related issues.
After a few years and a 16-week training programme, I joined the external sales force selling car/van/truck/agricultural/two-wheel and earthmover products in Yorkshire.
I then moved on to a more specialised sales role looking after key independent car tyre sales specialists in the north of England.
The next move was to become a regional sales manager with a team looking after the north and Midlands.
Then there was a move to become the customer training manager of the Michelin Training and Information Centre which was based in Watford, but then moved up to the company headquarters in Stoke-on-Trent.
After about five years, I joined our original equipment department looking after our European business with Honda and Toyota which was extremely interesting. I then moved to my current job in 2005.
Michelin is one of the best-known tyre manufacturers. How does it operate in the fleet market?
Michelin, as a global player in the world tyre market, has relationships with the largest fleets worldwide.
It also services a number of pan-European fleets, liaising with their headquarters wherever that may be.
In the UK, there is a dedicated team to call on the key car/van fleet customers.
The team’s portfolio covers mainly the FN50, but also extends to some smaller regionally-based accounts.
The team is headed up by Dave Crinson who is sales manager car fleets UK & ROI, and consists of four key account managers and regional fleet specialists.
Michelin sees the fleet market as a key area of business which delivers a high volume of unit sales and a rich mix of higher-end tyre sizes and speed ratings.
One of our key missions is to ensure that the Michelin product isn’t seen as just a commodity, but that customers realise the value of a cutting-edge technical product.
We call on fleet managers, operational staff, key directors and decision-makers to update them on tyre products, industry innovations and developments, both within Michelin and the tyre industry in general. We also distribute literature on tyre safety, tyre care and environmental developments.
We assist the fleets with promotional ideas, branding and any other areas where our expertise can be useful.
Also, uniquely amongst tyre manufacturers, we host a twice-yearly fleet panel made up of key decision-makers and influencers from the UK’s major car fleet companies.
This gives Michelin an opportunity to address, debate and present new developments and innovations in the market.
We are also involved with sponsoring fleet awards and regularly advertise and sponsor articles in the fleet press.
Does a fleet manager really need to know about tyres? Can’t they just defer to the advice of the fast-fit outlet or garage when deciding which tyre to fit?
In these days where duty of care and corporate responsibility are key issues, it is vital that a fleet manager should know enough about the tyres fitted on their vehicles so can they feel confident about driver welfare.
There are so many different tyre makes, tread patterns, speed ratings and loadings that it is possible that an incorrect fitment could be made.
Therefore some basic knowledge backed up with literature, and access to tyre information websites such as www.michelin.co.uk, will provide both knowledge and reassurance.
A basic understanding is necessary of key regulations such as the Road Vehicles (Constructions and Use Regulations) 1986.
It is worth remembering that the ability to monitor, check and understand the data from a fast-fit or garage is also a key management function.
The tyre distributor also needs to be aware that they are dealing with a fleet manager who is proficient and vigilant in policing what the distributor is doing.
It may be that a certain distributor has a leaning, for whatever reason, towards a certain tyre manufacturer.
The fleet manager needs to know and understand this, so they can ensure their drivers are receiving both the best advice and the correct fitments on their vehicles.
It is also important that the fleet manager should be fully aware that all tyres are not the same; they may all look similar but there are premium, second line and budget tyres of many different makes.
Taking into account the different performances these products will deliver, the manager must decide their policy and know and understand the reasons for that decision.
Have tyre manufacturers changed the way they deal with the fleet market in recent years?
Definitely. For example, at Michelin we have developed a closer relationship with our fleet customers over the past 20 years.
We feel it is vital to have a team calling to assist and give technical advice.
Over this time, vehicle developments have meant tyre sizes and speed ratings have increased and the range of tyres on offer has grown enormously.
Cars which 20 years ago would have been on 13- or 14-inch wheels, are now on 16-, 17- or 18-inch wheels that are fitted with tyres that have a high-speed capability.
We have also seen developments in tread patterns, with directional and asymmetric tyres available from some manufacturers.
A wide range of fuel-saving tyres is also available. There has also been the introduction and growth of the run-flat or Zero Pressure tyre, which has been seen mainly on BMW models.
Fleet managers have had to increase their awareness and knowledge of these developments and manufacturers have had to provide more comprehensive information for them.
Additionally, the fleet sector has polarised, many smaller fleets having been taken over or absorbed into huge fleets operating many thousands of vehicles.
It is critical for us to understand who the key decision-makers are and to establish a relationship with them, so that when a tender or an opportunity to bid for business arises, we know the fleet and the people involved.
Recent developments in the industry suggest that some of the largest companies will be getting larger, so we need to be able to meet any challenges that are presented.
What developments have there been in tyre design that have been particularly valuable to fleet customers?
There are a number of tyre developments in recent years that have delivered increased benefits for fleet customers.
One example is our Energy Saver range, for which specific rubber compounds have been developed to reduce the rolling resistance of the tyre without sacrificing other factors such as grip and comfort.
Less fuel consumption, lower running costs, fewer CO2 emissions, and fewer tyres to dispose of – these all help the environment and benefit the fleet customer.