What are the main responsibilities of your role?
Smith: I am the office-based point of contact for all things fleet, from quotation through to delivery and the agreement of terms with all our customers and dealers.
I also manage our used vehicle and ex-management stock, which is then sold mainly within the dealer network. This also includes all car scheme and company-owned vehicles.
We don’t currently have a large fleet operation and it’s more efficient for all fleet operations to come through me and one other colleague. Dependent on our fleet operations in the next year, we are looking to potentially grow our team in parallel with the growth of our operations.
What are the most significant challenges ahead in your field of work?
Smith: The changing perceptions of diesel engines and manual transmissions. We are seeing the results of a biased campaign against diesel engines, which doesn’t necessarily consider the jumps made in modern technology and diesel economy.
Another challenge is communicating with our customers regarding the common misconceptions with our brands, giving them the facts and highlighting our USPs. This is more important than ever for both of our brands (Isuzu and Subaru).
Naturally we will see a number of diesel vehicle sales being deflected in the coming year, as a result of newer alternative engine variants being introduced to the global market.
How might these challenges be overcome?
Smith: We liaise directly with our European colleagues to feed back what the UK market needs and what our customers want.
We are always planning and focusing on finding alternative engine variants to offer a diverse range for our customers and prospects.
Residuals are highly affected by the quality of vehicle, which, for both brands, we believe is high.
We are still seeing a demand for the diesel variants as some customers aren’t deterred by the negative stories. Although residual values have dropped for diesel vehicles, the competitive fuel economy and drive still appeal to prospective buyers.
What attracted you to this area of expertise?
Smith: I started work as a business apprentice and by pure coincidence I secured a placement at Mercedes-Benz Bus and Coach.
Now 13 years into my automotive career, I haven’t looked back since. I always had a knack for being well organised and fleet management just came naturally to me, especially when you are given the chance to represent brands which appeal to you, then it certainly helps.
What’s the most important thing you’ve learned in your career, and how have you made use of it?
Smith: My background in the automotive industry is varied, having worked in different sectors such as rental and fleet for several automotive manufacturers and having worked in the world of research and development. I would say the most important thing I’ve learned is that product knowledge is key. Devoting as much time as possible to understanding the product and the USPs is of paramount importance.
What drives you?
Being able to contribute to a successful business, and using my competitive streak to give 100% effort in everything I do. My family are my biggest driver – setting a good example to my children is always at the forefront of my mind.
What’s your favourite app?
How do you relax?
My three young children tend to keep me busy, so relaxing isn’t much of an option! My hobby is going to the gym regularly for my me-time.