Over the past 20 years, Pumfrey has seen the life of a fleet driver at all levels. He has experienced everything from the daily grind of a hard-driving pharmaceuticals rep, notching up tens of thousands of miles a year, to the dubious pleasure of covering high mileages in a Lotus Esprit.
Other jobs have included training as a pilot in the RAF, working for Jaguar Sport and helping launch the XJ220 supercar. He also ran his own business before his move in 2002 to Mazda, where he was most recently aftersales director.
The wide range of jobs and hundreds of thousands of business miles they put under his belt have been well spent.
He will call on that experience to ensure Mazda fulfils its promises to fleets as it builds on rocketing sales which made it Britain’s fastest-growing major fleet manufacturer last year.
Last year’s fleet sales were up almost 50% on 2003 levels and this year they are expected to hit 18,000 – an increase of about 3,000 units.
Since taking the new role in February, replacing David McGonigle, Pumfrey has focused on finalising the plan that will take Mazda to 70,000 sales in the UK in the next three years, an increase of nearly 20,000, with fleets taking 35%.
A key focus will be working with the franchise dealer network to win more sales from small and medium-size businesses.
He said: ‘There are thousands of companies across the UK operating small fleets of up to 50 cars and these businesses are our target market.
‘My aim over the next year is to work with our dealerships that have yet to truly enter the fleet market and help them win corporate business in their areas.
‘Fleets are now putting us on their shopping lists and we are popular with user-choosers. There is a lot more awareness of what we have to offer, driven by the success of products such as the Mazda6.’
Out of its 150-strong dealer network, Mazda currently has 12 fleet specialist dealers, with many others serving businesses in their areas, but about half the network has yet to secure corporate business.
Pumfrey will be focusing on explaining to dealers the benefits of fleet business. One of its fleet retailers sold 1,400 cars last year in the corporate sector.
In both fleet and retail, demand for its cars currently follows the same pattern, with the Mazda6 the biggest seller, followed by the Mazda3 and then its two halo sports models, the MX-5 in third and the RX-8.
RX-8 is unique for its four-door coupe design and there is a new MX-5, launched in November. Pumfrey is part of a team of 12 specialising in fleet, with two staff focused on contract hire and leasing companies and five regional sales managers backed by a national manager. There are also two remarketing experts.
He is working closely with contract hire and leasing companies to ensure that residual values are strong and that they are carefully protected when cars are remarketed.
He is also monitoring the volume of cars going to the rental sector, as this can have an adverse impact on residual values when large numbers of low-mileage cars are returned.
Pumfrey, who has been busy visiting fleet customers and dealers since taking up the role, said: ‘When we visit customers, we are pushing against open doors.
‘It is my aim to help dealers tap into this huge marketplace so we can grow the Mazda brand together.’
Corporate focus grows for dealer groups
DEALERS at Mazda have been tailoring their services towards fleets as the importance of corporate customers grows, but there is still plenty of work to be done, according to Pumfrey.
He said: ‘About half of our dealers have yet to secure any corporate business. However, they are sitting on a potentially lucrative business opportunity as companies that run fleets – both large and small – surround them.
‘It is my aim to help them tap into that huge marketplace this year. By defining the fleet opportunity to them, and by them discovering how some of our other franchises have secured both local small business opportunities and larger fleet success, we can grow the Mazda brand together.’
One of the dealers Mazda will no doubt be using to highlight the strengths of fleet business is Robinsons Mazda in Leicester, the highest-volume Mazda fleet retailer in the UK. Last year, it sold 1,400 cars into the corporate sector, led by the Mazda6, MX-5 and RX-8.
The family-run business launched its fleet operation four years ago and to service its move into the segment the company also opened its own PDI centre at nearby Bruntingthorpe. In addition, the company acquired a fleet of transporters and employed drivers to handle national corporate business.
Two-thirds of fleet sales at Robinsons are to customers all over the country, but 2005 is seeing a major focus on increasing corporate business with companies in Leicester and the surrounding area.
Dealer development manager Sam Robinson, who launched the fleet operation, said: ‘Being successful in fleet is all about customer relationship management – that is what we believe in, it is one of our strengths.
‘As a family business and with only the one franchise, we are totally focused on Mazda. Our response times to customers are very quick and that is why we are successful.’
The firm has stressed the importance of customer relations in all its dealings and believes this has helped drive forward fleet volumes.
Robinson added: ‘Our national fleet business has evolved over the last four years and much of our success has been down to client recommendation.’
But it is not just in the Midlands that Mazda is encouraging its dealer network to innovate and push for fleet business.
Mitchell Group, in Chester, opened a new £2.5 million dealership complex last year and has built a £40,000 customer lounge, including internet café, plasma TV screens and all-day hot and cold refreshments.
There is also an eight-seat boardroom available free of charge, while the dealership’s investment in servicing includes a 20-bay workshop and a target of turning around vehicles in one hour. Mark Mitchell, group managing director at Mitchell Mazda said: ‘Everything we offer is critical to maintaining strong and long-lasting relationships with fleet customers.’
Border Cars, in Dumfries, now opens on Saturdays and Sundays for servicing, while all dealers say they believe service is essential to retain fleet business.
Mike Fusco, dealer principal of Border Cars Mazda, said: ‘Business people are very busy and although we run a shuttle service to and from their place of work, and will supply a loan car, sometimes that is inconvenient.
‘Opening our workshops on Saturdays and Sundays means SMR work can be undertaken at a time to suit our customers. It is all part of the service.’