Fleet News

BMW defies credit crunch

While the UK car industry struggles against the effects of the credit crunch and a downturn in the economy, BMW is on a roll.

As the public and fleets tighten their purse strings, the German manufacturer has seen sales rise and new models bring in new customers. BMW was one of the success stories at this year’s Fleet News Awards, and walked off with six awards.

Chris Brownridge, corporate operations director at BMW UK, put the success down to BMW’s long history of dynamic excellence, combined with highly impressive environmental credentials.

With its EfficientDynamics package now standard across the BMW range, the carmaker has products that offer often class-leading fuel economy and CO2 emissions without compromising driveability.

 

EFFICIENTDYNAMICS

“EfficientDynamics on every car is clearly resulting in products being very suitable for the fleet market,” Mr Brownridge says.

“None of our products are compromised. As a proposition to the user choosers they are fantastic.”

He points out that BMW has always been strong at engineering and technology.

“But with EfficientDynamics the cars have taken a stride that nobody else has been able to match,” he says.

“The distance between, for example, 50mpg to 60mpg over 60,000 miles has a considerable impact on fuel and whole life costs.

“Our 3-litre diesel makes 245bhp and emits 152g/km.

"The equivalent Mercedes-Benz emits around 200g/km.

"That’s why from a user-chooser perspective we are having it away this year. Our sales are up 18% in fleet and 13% overall, year-to-date.”

Mr Brownridge admits that the work done by colleagues in Germany meant the UK operation had a huge head start when it came to selling to British business users.

“When we understood the EfficientDynamics proposition we were delighted,” he says.

“We knew it would suit the UK market well. Lots of fleets have caps on CO2 emissions these days.

"It’s great, because people with lots of vehicles on the road are being more mindful about the impact that they have on the land.”

THE AWARDS

March’s awards saw BMW pick up the award for best small car with the MINI, best small premium car for the 1 Series and best large premium car for the 3 Series.

The 5 Series took the gong for best executive car and the X5 won best SUV.

In addition, BMW was presented with the Fleet News environmental award for the EfficientDynamics package.

“It was a great result overall,” a delighted Mr Brownridge says.

“We were delighted to get the environmental award because it means that as a brand associated with performance we also have great green credentials.

“The 1 Series was a new car, a new segment for us.

"It needed a while to bed into the marketplace.

"The key transformation was introducing EfficientDynamics in March 2007.

"The 118d increased in power and the tax went down to 13% BIK. No other car does that. The equivalent Audi has 50% less power.”

The 1 Series coupe has continued that success.
“We have sold 2,600 already this year,” Mr Brownridge says.

“It’s a very desirable user-chooser car, very multipurpose.”

The 3 Series is a classic fleet car, and new car lifted the benchmark set by the old one.

“Since it launched the competition have brought out competitors but the product still has an overall blend of abilities that pip the others to the post,” Mr Brownridge says.

For 5 Series, a March 2007 refresh that included the arrival of EfficientDynamics, marked the start of a revolution for the saloon.

“It was like a stick of dynamite. Year to date, sales of 5 Series are 12% up and 31% up in fleet.

"The reason is that the whole range is appealing because of the tax benefits brought along by EfficientDynamics. The combination of economy and performance is just astonishing.”

The X5, Mr Brownridge believes, has the Midas touch in a time when the public are deserting 4x4s in their droves.
“I think it will continue to perform very well,” he says.

“Year to date it is 46% up in fleet so that confirms there are people in the marketplace buying products like that.

"I’m not ignorant of the fact that people are focusing on efficiency and taxation.

"But it emits less than 225g/km which makes us very strong, as those customers that stay in the market place are much more switched on to fuel economy and efficiency.”

THE TEAM

Having a range of impressive products immediately gives you a sounds base.

But without a decent corporate sales team to sell the cars, the product is severely compromised

Mr Brownridge, who has worked for the BMW Group for 14 years, took over his current role two years ago, and started with a team of eight.

“We didn’t really engage as much as we do now with customers and the leasing industry,” he recalls.

Since then the customer-facing team has grown to nine, as well as three people dedicated to working with the leasing industry.

And Mr Brownridge has further plans.

“It’s been a massive change but there’s always room for improvement. I’d like to get better at supporting our customers and their information needs as best we can. It can become very confusing.

“We have processes in place already that work very well but we want to improve them - having private areas within the website for selected customers to access information pertinent to them, for example.

“It’s important that you have got a good customer-facing team that’s proactive and can talk to customers and also support the leasing industry.”

The approach, combined with strong products, seems to be working well.

“If you look at prestige fleet performance, for our competitors is looking a bit soft but we are very strong, which is great,” says Mr Brownridge.

“Getting the awards was very gratifying because it demonstrated that across the range we are a very serious player.

“My perception of BMW is that we are the number one aspirational brand because we are good to drive and we have good product substance.

"User choosers have become more discerning - under the BIK system if you’re a need driver or a perk driver, it doesn’t matter what you have, so people want the best they can get.”


THE FUTURE

“I think we’re already well positioned for the future,” Mr Brownridge says.

“We are bound to see increased hybridisation of products, lower emissions and greater performance. Every couple of years there seems to be a stride forward and I think that will continue to be so.

“We have at least three other models coming into new niches and we feature so strongly in user-chooser fleets that having a driver’s product range is a big asset.

"But 1, 3 and 5 Series will continue to be the most popular derivatives.”

There is a real desire at BMW to be the best, and Mr Brownridge intends that to continue.

“We want to be the number one premium brand,” he emphasises.

“We are very fortunate that the products we are presented with are absolutely fit for purpose and desirable but we can affect by giving great service and that’s what we’re doing.”

WHAT IS EFFICIENTDYNAMICS?

EfficientDynamics is an overall term for a package of technologies included on modern BMWs.

They include:

- Optimised engines
- Auto Start Stop technology that cuts out the engine when idling
- Brake Energy Regeneration, which uses energy from braking to recharge the battery
- Electric power steering that uses power only when cornering
- Electrically-controlled air vents that open only when cool air is required in the cabin, minimising drag
- Gear shift indicator that displays the optimum time to change gear
- Low rolling resistance tyres

 

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