Seat is expecting this month’s launch of its Ateca SUV to drive its true fleet registrations to record levels.
The manufacturer has seen sales in this market sector grow for the past three years, largely due to the success of Leon, and it expects this trend to continue.
Last year, to the end of July, Seat’s true fleet registrations were 4,800: for the same period this year, they were just over 5,300, a rise of 10%.
Peter McDonald, head of fleet and business sales at Seat UK, said: “We expect to maintain that to the year end. These volumes are at a record level now, and the good news for us is this is before we see the impact of Ateca.”
McDonald said the SUV sector is already the third largest – and fastest growing – segment in true fleet and Seat had received hundreds of orders from fleet and retail customers for Ateca even before people could drive it.
As well as its compact SUV, Seat is due to launch a small Ibiza-based SUV midway through next year, and these two models will increase its coverage of the market by vehicle type from 50% to 75%.
“This will be the most comprehensive line-up Seat has had in terms of segments,” said McDonald. “We have been dependent on Leon – and Leon is great – but we know that the fleet marketplace requires more.
“A fleet customer often doesn’t want to deal with many different manufacturers, they want to work with a few and have deep relationships. Part of that surrounds the commercial advantages of that kind of relationship to them, but it’s also the benefits through aftersales and knowing the people.
“Fleets have a lot more leverage if they work with a smaller number of manufacturers. The fact that we’ve been dependent on a small number of cars limits us. Ateca will grow volume but also helps us win customers where they want breadth of range, so it is really important for us.”
He would not reveal Seat’s specific growth ambitions for the next 18 months, but said: “We want to continue growing, we want to launch Ateca properly and take a 3-4% sector share with that.”
That would make it the manufacturer’s second best-selling fleet model behind Leon, which is due to undergo a mid-life refresh later this year. Seat will also launch a new Ibiza next year.
McDonald expects sales of all Seat models to benefit from Ateca, as he anticipates the SUV to win conquest sales from other brands and sectors, as well as attract new buyers to the brand.
He said: “We saw some work that was done when Nissan Qashqai launched and the majority of customers were a combination of two things: people who have migrated up from the Volkswagen Golf, so a typical hatch body style, and the other was BMW 3 Series down.
“We’ve got fleets that probably had a policy in the past of a Golf-sized car and Vauxhall Insignia-sized car, but they may not have that as a fleet policy going forward.
“The Volkswagen Golf/Ford Focus/Seat Leon segment is doing well, but some people are choosing an SUV instead, so that’s where we see a big opportunity.”
He added: “I think Ateca will help us grow more Leon customers because we can sell a bigger portfolio of models.”
McDonald added that Seat’s fleet growth is through good end-user and small fleet business.
The manufacturer has reduced its daily rental registrations (down 10% for the year to the end of June to 3,109 compared to last year). Motability is also down for the year to the end of June (down 45% to 923 compared to last year), although McDonald said new initiatives should mean that 2016’s total will be higher than 2015’s.