Fleet News

Face to face: Richard Collier, Vauxhall

VAUXHALL has had an outstanding 2005 in the commercial vehicle market, beating the 50,000 sales mark for the first time in the company’s history.

The final figure of 52,481 was up 8% year on year, comfortably beating the previous best of 49,873 set in 2003.

It’s great news for the company and perhaps the perfect time for a new national commercial vehicles sales manager to come in and pick up the reins. Richard Collier took over the role just before the end of last year following Ian Hucker’s move to the newly-created post of director, pan-European corporate sales and leasing as part of a restructuring of the European fleet team.

Collier (40), was previously business development manager for the North West region, where he was responsible for manufacturer liaison and development with around 75 retailers in the Vauxhall network.

And, he says, he is definitely up for the challenge of taking Vauxhall commercial vehicles sales on to the next level.

He said: ‘It’s a great time to be joining the commercial vehicle team. We have witnessed rapid growth over the past few years and have now exceeded the 50,000 sales barrier for the first time in the company’s history.’

This success has come right across the range with strong performances throughout the CV model line-up. Sales of the Combo car-derived van, for example, were up around 15% at over 20,000 units and those of Vivaro up a further 16% to 16,800 units, crowning an award- winning year for the medium van contender.

With a number of new launches, including a host of niche products, the portents are looking good for another strong year in 2006.

Collier said: ‘Last year was a great year for Vauxhall commercial vehicles and our product line-up is now well established and improving all the time.

‘During last year, we saw a variety of new core variants added to the range, including minibuses, double-cabs, dropsides and tippers. In addition to this, we have also been expanding our range of recognised conversions with, for example, a Luton body, refrigerated units, wheelchair accessible vehicles and access platforms available for the first time.

‘With the extra variants, we were able to consolidate our position as number two commercial vehicle provider in the UK market, with some strong individual performances. For example, we saw Combo finish as number one and Vivaro finishing as number two in their respective segments.’

Much of the success has been product-led thanks to a diversity of model line-up that Vauxhall now feels is more than a match for any in the country. But a big factor in the sales growth has also been the network of around 120 dedicated commercial vehicle retailers in Vauxhall’s 310-strong retailer network.

Collier said: ‘We can apportion some of this success to our dedicated network of CV specialist retailers, who have made a major contribution to our performance. The CV retailers are able to provide a dedicated and bespoke service to our CV customers, including the ability to readily offer demonstrators to fleet and retail customers, plus a significant operating stock on site, and they have dedicated CV specialist staff who are capable of dealing with specific customers queries and enquiries.

‘This has undoubtedly helped boost our customer care commitment and given us a more flexible and professional approach to the market. As a result, customers see us as a major player in the CV arena, which has also enabled us to win a significant number of additional corporate and fleet accounts during the year.’

The excellent sales results have come as Vauxhall also marks a record year of production at GM Manufacturing Luton, where Vivaro vans are built. The plant produced 90,338 vans in 2005, making GM the biggest van manufacturer in the UK.

In addition, by the end of 2006, the bulk of Vauxhall’s CV production will be based here as part of a sustained commitment to van manufacturing in the UK.

Collier said: ‘We also have the European CV vehicle engineering centre, which is based at Millbrook proving ground, which enables us to bring new products and conversions to market quickly and efficiently as well as meeting the varied turnkey solutions for our customers. So certainly from a production point of view, we are better placed here in the UK than we ever have been.’

One of the areas of the business that Collier intends to concentrate on in the coming 12 months and beyond is marketing. He feels that, despite great strides being made, there is still room for significant development.

He said: ‘Our marketing strategy has been successful over the last few years with marked improvements in customer consideration and awareness levels.

‘The CV industry is very diverse and it is important that we try to reach as many target audiences as possible, while not excluding our existing customers, in the most creative ways possible.

‘That means we will continue to use traditional methods as well as looking at new and alternative marketing methods to reach our various target audiences.’

However, sales success in the UK will not come at any price.

Collier said: ‘We are obviously pleased with the progress we have made over the last few years. However, our number one objective is to grow our business profitably with healthy margins, while still maintaining a dedicated and flexible approach and an appropriate network to support our customer requirements.

‘If that means that we increase market share at the expense of our competitors – any of our competitors – then that’s fine, but we do not want to do it at any price.’

One of Vauxhall’s success stories has come in the medium and large panel van arenas through the Vivaro and Movano respectively, both models that Vauxhall shares through joint ventures with Renault and Nissan. Differentiating these products from those of the competition is not to Collier’s mind a problem, however, and it’s not an issue that comes up very often when talking to customers.

He said: We are quite easily able to differentiate the models through different specification and internal styling.

‘But let’s not forget that the products we share with these manufacturers are just two from what is now a very extensive model range well placed to meet the many and diverse commercial vehicle needs of our customers.’

There are rumblings in the corridors of power in Brussels at present about making tachographs a legal requirement on 3.5-tonne vans, a situation which Vauxhall is watching with some interest.

Collier said: ‘Introducing tachographs for 3.5 tonne vans would present businesses with some significant new challenges and I’m sure that vehicle trade bodies and other lobbying groups will be active in lobbying to protect their member’s interests should this proposal take a step nearer becoming law.

‘Alternatively, if such legislation does materialise, CV operators may take a more pragmatic approach and simply switch to similar- sized vehicles plated at 3.3- or 3.4-tonnes to avoid the issue, which is something we as a manufacturer would be quite capable of supplying very easily.’

Name: Richard Collier
Title: National commercial vehicle sales manager
Favourite book: The Firm by John Grisham
Favourite film: The Matrix Trilogy
Favourite bands: Coldplay, U2
Favourite hobbies: Squash, skiing and spending time with the family

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