Fleet News

Face to face: Caroline Beaumont, manager product and pricing, Peugeot

IN a little over six years, Caroline Beaumont has packed a huge amount into her career.

After joining Peugeot in 1998 before graduating from Bradford University, she has held high-pressure roles ranging from matching customer orders with global production to negotiating production of all vehicles destined for the UK, including intensive use of her French language skills.

Now she has become the first woman to hold the role of manager of product and pricing for LCVs for Peugeot Motor Company in the UK.

Her success in a traditionally male-dominated sector is an example of the changing face of the motor industry that has allowed talent to come before gender in choosing senior manufacturer employees.

She said: ‘My previous position gave me a good understanding of Peugeot’s LCV line-up and all the issues and challenges associated with supporting the LCV product in the market. This position was the ideal one to enable me to become the ‘public’ face of Peugeot’s LCV range rather than the backroom technician.

‘Also it is a fantastic opportunity with an exciting new range of Peugeot LCVs to be introduced over the coming years (new Boxer and new Expert about to be launched) and by the end 2008 we will have the youngest range of LCVs ever in the Peugeot range. This gives me the chance to make a real impact and ensure the new products generate the increased sales and market share they deserve.’

During the course of her work, she has to deal with a good many hairy, dyed-in-the-wool van men who are used to doing business with older men. So has she experienced any problems?

Beaumont said: ‘I have had no problems dealing with customers or dealers. In any role your knowledge and enthusiasm are the most important facts and these are what determines the relationships you have. I have a comprehensive knowledge of the product and I am here to help.’

Her job involves determining the specification and pricing of all Peugeot’s LCVs sold in the UK, analysing the LCV market and competitors and identifying the opportunities and threats, supporting Peugeot’s fleet sales operation with product presentations, developing product specifications and identifying new opportunities for large fleet customers and raising the awareness and profile of the Peugeot LCV range.

One of Peugeot’s problems is that many of its vans also appear with Citroën and Fiat badges. So how can she separate her offerings from those of the competitors?

Beaumont said: ‘The important factors here are the perception and value added by the brand, the total offer you make to the customer and the suitability of the vehicle specification and pricing in each market segment.

Peugeot has a strong brand which is supported by the fact we achieve better residual values for our vehicles and my challenge will be to ensure the experience of buying the vehicle and owning the vehicle add more value to a prospective customer than the other marques. We clearly currently have an advantage already with the Expert range as we outsell both of the other brands.’

Citroën offers a seemingly never-ending stream of cashback deals to attract customers but Beaumont ruled out such a move. She said: ‘This method of marketing is not what Peugeot is about. It is very tactical. We want to grow our brand and create a strong image which is clear to the customer and is a long term approach.’

New Boxer is just being launched on the UK market. How have fleet buyers reacted to the new vehicle? She said: ‘The early feedback is very positive and we are in negotiation with regards to several major fleet deals as we speak. Customers really like its car-like driving dynamics and well laid out interior ergonomics. The sales we have achieved so far are in line with our plans and the order take is very encouraging.’

One of Beaumont’s tasks will be increasing Peugeot’s van sales in the UK. At present the manufacturer nestles in the sales charts between Citroën and Fiat. So what’s her strategy? She said: ‘We have the new range of vehicles: new Boxer in October 2006, new Expert in February 2007, a new 207 van to join the range in 2007, a third joint venture vehicle with Fiat and Tofas to be launched in 2008 and a replacement for the Partner in 2008.

‘Also both with new Boxer and new Expert we have introduced new version of the van. With new Expert we now have a long wheelbase version and a high roof version, giving us new market opportunities. However as PSA Peugeot’s parent company is the No1 supplier of LCV vehicles in Europe and has been since it dislodged Ford in 1997, we know we have a good product range which matches the requirements of a wide range of customers.

We will, however, continue to increase our sales year-on-year and to help this we will be looking at our offers to ensure that we tailor vehicles and specifications to the demands of the UK market, not just take a European specification.

‘Historically we had great success with our Partner Silver range which was aimed at customers who have to use their vans as private vehicles as well, so we made the specification similar to a modern car and added electric mirrors/windows, foglights CD player etc...’

Beaumont added: ‘We intend to increase our sales and this will mean taking sales from all competitors, not just Fiat and Citroën. We have the products coming and my managing director expects me to increase sales. Also the Peugeot dealer network will have more focus on LCVs, especially small business sales.

‘We recently set up Dealer Business Centres and a dedicated Business Support Centre within Peugeot and we are already seeing significant growth in our small business LCV sales from the initiative we launched this year.’

Fact file

Name: Caroline Beaumont

Title: Manager product & pricing LCVs

Brief career history: First experience with Peugeot was in 1998/99 when I joined the undergraduate training programme before graduating in 2000.

Joined Peugeot in 2000 after graduating from Bradford University with a degree in business management. During my graduate years I worked within all the departments in the Peugeot sales and marketing division.

This gave me a very broad and comprehensive knowledge of Peugeot, the sales and marketing disciplines, the dealer network and the UK motor industry and market.

I then took up the position of dealer sales reporting analyst responsible for sales reporting within the Peugeot dealer network.

The next career move saw me move to Peugeot’s supply and distribution department, where I was responsible for the matching of all customer orders to vehicles programmed to be built in all the PSA production centres around the world. This position gave me a lot of experience in understanding customer requirements, ordering trends, factory build processes and dealer sales processes.

I then was promoted to sales and production planning manager, where I was responsible for negotiating production of all vehicles destined for the UK from the Peugeot 107 to the Peugeot Boxer.

This role required direct contact with Peugeot’s headquarters in Paris and gave me the chance to use my French language skills to ensure vehicle supply to the UK was always maximised.

Then in September with my wealth of experience gained in a number of key positions within Peugeot, I moved to my current role as manager product & pricing LCVs, and the first woman to hold such a position within Peugeot Motor Company in the UK.

Favourite book: Donna Tartt - The Little Friend.

Favourite film: The Business – I loved the 80s music (soundtrack), 80s clothes and there are some great one liners.

What three records would you take to a desert island?

For the compulsory Beach Party: Feeling for you by Cassius (French Pop Group)
For those quiet moments of contemplation Samuel Barber – Adagio for strings
For relaxing on the sun-kissed beaches: I Wanna be adored – Stone Roses

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