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Non-French targeted to grow Total’s sales

Total UK, part of the French oils and lubes supplier TotalFinaElf, is re-jigging its strategy to reduce focus on French manufacturers and increase sales with other businesses.

The company plans to use its OE and aftersales experience to curry favour with non-French carmakers and extend its penetration into the retail and independent workshop.

“We have a successful business model, but we’ve not told anyone that we are here,” says Jonathan Garton, Total UK lubricants general manager. “We need to raise our the industry.”

He believes workshops want a competitive deal, add-on services – described as “useful, but not enough to persuade someone to switch supplier” – and support for investment, i.e. acting as a bank. “That’s the way the market works, and we can invest funds in dealers,” adds Garton.

Total currently has around 5.5% market share of the car aftermarket, making it the fourth or fifth largest, but it has aspirations to trade blows with Exxon, Shell and Castrol at about 12-15%.

“We plan to raise our market share by 50% within three years, and this is in a market that is declining as oils and lubricants become more effective and servicing schedules lengthen,” says Garton.

Total last month struck a deal to supply the Peugeot-owned Robins & Day network, which has 34 sites. It is also eyes the independent market, pointing out that this sector is accounting for a greater slice of the lubes market – again due to longer vehicle service intervals reducing work at the franchised workshop. The field sales force has been expanded at a time when some rivals are contracting their networks, and now stands at 10.

The company is planning a number of products this year, and is due to launch a gas/power package for workshops taking up its lubes products. “We are able to source at a competitive level because of the size of the group,” says Garton. He says the strategy is to promote Total as the main brand, but acknowledges that Elf – seen as a competing brand – currently has a larger profile, thanks mainly to its role as a Formula One sponsor.
“We need to punch at our weight, not below it,” he adds.

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