Disappointing results have prompted Skoda officials to scotch an ambitious plan aimed at boosting UK sales of company cars.
Set up two years ago and based on 30 retail outlets singled out for their expertise in handling corporate business, the Fit for Fleet programme is now being shut down, Fleet News can reveal.
"It has not worked out particularly well – we’re having to reinvent the whole thing," admitted Skoda UK brand director Alasdair Stewart.
In an interview as the VW subsidiary launched its facelifted Superb hatchback and estate car range in Austria, he said the campaign had been drawn up as part of the Czech firm’s five-year plan to strengthen its operations in Britain.
Under the plan, billed Simply Grow and launched in 2010, the company is spending more than £50 million in a bid to extend the reach of its brand via improvements in marketing, dealer network standards, customer satisfaction and higher fleet penetration.
"Fleet is a crucial element in our development process and if we are not to miss out, we have to be more vigorous in an area that accounts for half the new car market. We’re looking for growth across all the channels as we work to lift our total annual volume from 60,000 this year to 78,000 in 2015," he said.
Currently, Skoda accounts for just over 1% of the fleet market and is aiming for a 2.5% share in two years’ time via improvements in the rental, Motability and true fleet sectors.
"The last area is vital. We need to make significant strides in the end-user business that includes contract hire and leasing. Retailers were set for a big part of this drive by investing in staff, facilities, marketing and prospecting in their local areas and we backed them with initial six-figure cash payments and extra margins on the fleet deals they achieved.
"But our targets have not been met and we have to accept that not everybody wants to do fleet business.
"On the other hand, some of our retailers are very active in fleet and have the resources to respond quickly to test drive requests. I think we need to work more closely with them to see how we can help make them even more proactive," he said.