Fleet News

Face to face: Bill Parfitt, Vauxhall

IN the same way that Bill Parfitt runs his business, his formula for success is brief and to the point.

A three-point strategy is at the heart of what allows one person to oversee the corporate empire that sits behind his two job titles – managing director Vauxhall Motors and executive director UK, Ireland and GME Fleet.

It also allows him to look remarkably relaxed considering the high-pressure environment in which he operates.

‘Firstly, you have to create enough time in your working week to be able to handle the unexpected,’ he says.

‘You have to be flexible enough to have enough time to talk to people.

‘The second is to have a very structured regime and effective processes. I am very focused on disciplined meetings.’

This means that presentations can’t be more than 10 slides long and there has to be a recommendation. Everyone should have read any presentations in advance anyway, so those present can go straight to the recommendations and get things done, rather than just talk about them, which keeps some briefings down to 15 minutes.

Parfitt adds: ‘Thirdly, you need good people to run your operations for you. You need the right people with the intelligence, experience, drive and energy to do the job.’

Since become managing director of Vauxhall in May, he has focused on key strategies to build the brands which come under his wing, covering Vauxhall, Saab and the recently launched Chevrolet brand.

Vauxhall is at the heart of Vauxhall’s presence in fleet, but Parfitt still thinks there is a lot of work to be done to bring people’s perception of the cars and the reality closer together.

Parfitt said: ‘Brand is a big issue. Brand awareness is strong and understanding among owners is very good, but our biggest opportunity is to improve awareness among non-owners.’

The One Million Mile Drive, which has to date led to 58,000 test drives across Europe, had a particular impact in the UK because it was expanded from solely retail to include the user-chooser market.

Parfitt added: ‘The VXR brand is having a positive impact and we will have a VXR model at the top of all our ranges apart from Signum, including Zafira, Meriva and Corsa, when the new model arrives next year.’

Vauxhall’s strong sales this year come despite the fact that it has dropped tens of thousands of short-cycle vehicle sales and is planning a further drop in the next year.

Parfitt said: ‘Being number one in the fleet sector is not the aim for us, but being number one in terms of the customer is.

‘This approach protects residual values and if you can replace very low margin short-cycle business with slightly more profitable corporate business, then it makes a difference because the volumes are so big.’

This comes back to one of the cornerstones that support Parfitt’s philosophy, that of having good people, something he attributes to Saab’s success.

Parfitt said: ‘While you can use computer systems to market your products, there is nothing that can better the impact of a highly-knowledgeable employee going out to meet people and talk to them about our product. If you can’t sit down in front of someone, then you can struggle.’

Bill Parfitt career profile

IF success in any plan is nine-tenths preparation, Bill Parfitt has ensured he is more than ready for the massive role he has taken on.

His first post was at Goodyear in 1972, where he joined the management executive programme and took on several senior positions, including launching FastFit Tyreservices.

In 1980, he moved to Dorada Motor Group, where he became general manager with a number of different dealerships. He was a director of Sears Group, the parent company of franchise chain Shaw & Kilburn.

After the purchase of Sears by Lex Group, he stayed in the organisation and held several director-level posts.

He was responsible for developing finance and insurance products for the Lex Retail Group and the all-makes Lex Used Car Franchise. He was then appointed managing director of Lex Mead, with franchises including Rover, Peugeot and Land Rover, in addition to his other responsibilities.

After moving to Henly’s Group as main board director, he moved to Vauxhall in 1998. By the end of 2000, he was general sales director and six months later became executive director of sales, marketing and aftersales, while also taking a board position at Vauxhall Motors.

The role then extended to include all brands in the UK and Ireland, and was increased again to include Saab in 2003, followed by Opel Ireland in 2004 and Chevrolet UK and Ireland this year. GM Europe’s fleet and used vehicle operations were added to his remit in January and he became managing director of Vauxhall Motors in May.

Combo and Vivaro lead huge rise in van sales

VAUXHALL’S van sales are set to reach 55,000 this year, marking a 70% increase in the past year. Its two best-sellers, Combo and Vivaro, have accounted for much of the growth, which saw sales rise from 32,300 in 2002, when Vauxhall vans had 12% market share, to a predicted 55,000 this year, equivalent to 18% market share.

For the year to end of July, Vauxhall has registered 31,888 vans, up 12.5% on last year, in a market up 1.1%.

The biggest improvements have come from Corsavan, up 61% to 1,061, Combo, up 25% to 12,458 and Vivaro, up 13%.

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