Škoda is revamping its fleet dealer network with the launch of 20 business centres, which will cater for small-to-medium enterprises (SMEs) and major corporates, from January 1, 2019.
Currently, Škoda has a two-tier system for fleet customers: sub-25 vehicle fleets are served by the brand’s local business development manager (LBDM) programme, while fleets of 25 vehicles or more are handled by Škoda’s premium agency partners. These are dealers who supply to major contract hire and leasing companies and who meet set criteria such as having a dedicated administrator for dealing with leasing companies, using the same procurement systems as leasing companies and having a minimum of three fleet-specific demonstrators.
However, this approach is “overly complex”, according to Škoda head of fleet Henry Williams. He wants each new Škoda Business Centre to have a local business development manager and to be equipped to handle major corporates and “top flight” contract hire and leasing companies putting Škoda’s fleet expertise “in one place”.
In addition, Škoda will allow its business centres to “make some decisions as if they were the manufacturer” in order to “speed up the process for customers”, Williams said.
For example, Škoda Business Centres will be able to offer five-day test drives from Škoda’s central fleet of about 250 cars and to specify and order their own fleet-relevant stock to meet customer demand.
It will also be easier for sub-25 fleet customers who do not fund their vehicles through Volkswagen Financial Services (VWFS) to get the right level of support.
“We’ll be giving Škoda Business Centres their own set of discount levels they can go to for supporting any business that is not done through VWFS,” Williams said.
Fleet customers will be able to find a Škoda Business Centre on the brand’s fleet website (set to re-launch next year) and will also be made aware through marketing material.
Williams said that there are no plans to change Škoda’s fleet training programme or any of the measurements it currently has in place. However, regular feedback from dealers will be essential to ensure the success of the new business centres, particularly given Škoda’s failed ‘Fit for Fleet’ initiative (which ran from 2011-2013).
The problem with ‘Fit for Fleet’, according to Williams, was that it was a central programme across the whole of Europe, whereas the fleet dealer initiatives in place now are UK-specific.
“We’ll be checking with the Škoda Business Centres on a regular basis to make sure it’s working for them and to see whether we need to do anything differently,” Williams said.
“I have a business development group of five or six dealers who I meet with on a regular basis to refine our strategy but that will broaden to 20 different dealers (the business centres) so we’ll be getting a much broader spectrum, a much more inclusive approach, from the dealer network into what we’re doing, which is really key.”
Dealer response so far has been positive.
“They see it as being much simpler,” Williams said. “We’re offering some additional benefits for them and from their perspective it’s about ease of doing business.”
Williams envisages the business centre network growing to around 25 dealers by January 2020 but it will not be open to all 128 dealers.
“We don’t really need any more (than 25) for the supply of volume,” he said.
“If we have some really talented dealers who can offer a great level of service to (fleet) customers and who can achieve the KPIs we set and go through a rigorous process of giving us business plans for the year then, of course, they are welcome to join us.
"But, I wouldn’t say it’s open to everybody. We could go to 60 and find 40 of them are not really engaged or focused on what they need to do.
"I’d rather have 20-25 that are really good at what they do.”