Nissan gets down to business

Date: Wednesday, April 17, 2013

The Japanese manufacturer is targeting corporate growth and has provided an overview of the CV sector in its first Van Report. James Dallas takes a look through the findings.
Nissan is to focus increasingly on the corporate sector in a bid to build up van market share in the UK.
When combining commercial vehicle and passenger car sales, the brand claims it enjoyed a record year for fleet business in 2012 with almost 57,400 sales, following growth of 40% over three years. An increase in the dealer network from 54 to 72 sites last year, including expansion of its Business Centre Network, will support further growth as will the establishment of a dedicated van team led by national LCV sales manager Matt Dale.
A key focus will be on improving out-of-hours aftersales services for CV operators, an area where Dale admits: “We haven’t been as robust as we ought to have been.”
The brand is to roll out a CV servicing scheme from April that will concentrate on keeping customers mobile, providing expertise on site and ensuring workshops are easy to do business with – particularly through online provisions and servicing programmes.
A prominent statement of Nissan’s increased fleet intent is its relationship with British Gas. The utility giant has been testing prototypes of the electric E-NV200 that launches this summer since May 2012 and in October it enlisted 138 Primastar vans into its fleet. The development lends credence to corporate sales director Jon Pollock’s (pictured) assertion that the
brand is “becoming a more credible fleet player”.
In January Nissan added the entry-level Visia to its range of Navara pick-ups with the specific aim of attracting business from major fleets, as opposed to from the leisure and dual-use sectors where it is already well established with high-end versions such as the Tekna and Outlaw. The Visia has a starting price of £17,995, excluding VAT, and is targeted at the Toyota Hilux HL2 and the Mitsubishi L200 4Life.
Pollock says there is an opportunity for Nissan to expand its presence in the leasing sector and adds that a company such as SHB Vehicle Hire could be a core customer for the Visia, as could Transport for London. A single-cab version will not be offered because Nissan claims customers invariably need double cabs to transport teams of workers to sites.
“The Visia will be seen at the side of the motorway,” Dale says.


Changing industry

To underline its commitment to building fleet business, Nissan has produced its first Van Report, which it says aims “to gauge the changing face of the van industry from both a driver’s and fleet manager’s perspective”.
Nissan surveyed 252 fleet managers and 250 drivers and covered businesses ranging from SMEs to large fleets. Half of the fleets contained fewer than 10 LCVs, while just over a quarter ran more than 50 vehicles. It intends to repeat the research on an annual basis.
When choosing which vans to add to their fleets, cost was the main driver for fleet managers. One in four said whole-life costs were the most important consideration while 18% went for the front-end price. Contract hire rates were the uppermost concern for 12%, and 8% cited residual values as their priority.
Reliability and business image were each ranked the top purchasing concern for 7% of managers, but most surprisingly, just 5% put suitability for purpose as their most pressing consideration when selecting vans for their company.
The 67% of fleet managers who were averse to vans becoming subject to more legislative control was a more predictable response. However, a quarter were in favour of stricter controls, and the most popular measures included the compulsory fitting of telematics devices, the introduction of tachographs, a van driving test and regular medical check-ups for drivers.
With diesel prices having doubled to £1.40 a litre since 2001, three-quarters of managers said they were acting to reduce fuel use by using driver training alongside technical devices such as speed limiters and telematics systems. On the other hand this left one-in-four fleet managers who admitted they were taking no measures to control fuel use.
Of particular interest to Nissan, which is launching its E-NV200 in 2014, and to other manufacturers of electric vans, was that nearly 40% of fleet managers calculated their drivers covered less than 100 miles a day. The E-NV200 has a single- charge range of 86 miles and consequently the manufacturer reckons it is a viable proposition for many fleets. One-in-five managers said their drivers exceeded 200 miles a day.
These findings were reflected by the drivers themselves with almost half saying they drove fewer than 100 miles a day and a quarter reporting daily mileage of more than 200 miles.
In these days of transient working patterns both drivers and fleet managers reported a surprisingly high degree of stickability. One-in-four drivers said they had been with their current employer for between six and 10 years and 9% had been with the same firm for upwards of 20 years. Fleet managers were even more loyal – 29% said they had worked for the same company for 20 years or more.


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