In Malta, the car fleet business is still developing, however, on mainland Europe, this business has the power to shape the performance of a car maker in its respective markets. A case in point is Hyundai, whose aggressive addressing of the car fleet business has contributed to Hyundai’s market share. In this interview, Hyundai Europe’s Fleet and Remarketing Manager Jorge Llorente de Diego explains more.
How would you define your role as Hyundai Europe’s Fleet and Remarketing Manager?
My role is defined by the way Hyundai has managed to increase its business within this sector of car leasing and fleet buying. Hyundai Europe is today a very strong competitor in the European car industry and has managed to establish a solid foothold in most European countries. As a result, Hyundai’s success in the various markets has contributed to a thriving business in the car fleet business. Basically, I am responsible for the southern region of Europe which includes Spain, Portugal, Italy, Greece and Malta.
How have you seen this sector develop in recent years?
So many changes have shaped this sector into what it is today. Of course the market 10-15 years ago was very different. Whereas back then, it was hugely a retail-based market, today we are witnessing dramatically reduced margins and operators have to go out there and sell their product rather than just wait for customers to flow in to buy. Hyundai is now thriving within this growing sector mainly because the value of our cars are found to retain their value much better than other brands. This is due to the high quality standards and the technology in which Hyundai is investing.
Are there any specific models which Hyundai puts emphasis on? Is this related to the specific market in question?
When it comes to popular trend in the car industry, one finds that the southern region of Europe is very similar to what is going on in the northern European countries. We are an extension of what goes on in Europe and therefore, the popularity of particular models that appeal mostly to this specific car fleet business are the same models throughout. We can safely say that the i30 and against a certain degree of expectation, even the ix35, have proven to be very popular for fleets. However, recent figures are showing us that the i40 is soon bound to take over. This is the model that will move Hyundai towards a ‘modern premium’ positioning due to its high-end features, the unique design aesthetic of Hyundai’s form language ‘fluidic sculpture’ and the spacious and luxurious interior.
Besides the increase in sales and added exposure, how does Hyundai look at this particular niche?
Hyundai’s activity in this market is backed by the solid performance that the company is registering when it comes to sales. Figures indicate that by the end of this year, Hyundai’s market share is going to reach 3.5 per cent against last year’s 2.9 per cent. Amidst the current scenario where we are seeing the markets around us struggling, this achievement is very significant. Having said that, Hyundai is a company that sees opportunity in any market situation. Therefore, even in times like these, Hyundai looks at its car fleet business as an opportunity to appeal to new audiences and new buyers. More than ever, companies are after great value at good prices and this is where Hyundai is proving to be a very appealing contender.
In a recent interview, COO Alan Rushforth mentioned that market share increase might be delayed by the present economic rather dismal outlook. Would this hinder your re-marketing sector or else create a better positive scenario?
Hyundai is a company that sees opportunity even in times of economic slowdown. The fact that as I mentioned, we have this year again managed to secure a bigger market share shows that we possess the means and the capability to react to the market conditions that prevail. Hyundai in fact gives a lot of importance to the fleet industry. We have 32 Fleet Country Managers across Europe managing 500 fleet business centres that are manned by 700 fleet salesmen working alongside 700 ibest dealers. This framework is further supported by the fact that now, Hyundai owns the distribution network throughout the bigger five markets across Europe, namely the UK, Italy, Spain, Germany and France; thus Hyundai now controls 67 per cent of sales. Hyundai believes it has the right products for the fleet industry and sees a lot more opportunities that can be tapped. This is why it is investing so much in this infrastructure.
Within your sector, do you consider your best seller to be the company popular model, or does this help to make future clients more aware of the popularity of the brand? Does this help future end users?
Models that become popular within the fleet business do not necessarily mirror a popularity across the general markets. In the UK for example, the i20 is proving extremely important amongst companies looking to re-shape their fleet. It is a car that suits the particular needs of that market. However, Hyundai’s most popular models across the board are certainly the i30, the ix35 and the i40. The ix35 for example, has done a lot for Hyundai in that it has re-shaped the way customers previously looked at SUVs. The ix35 is the perfect blend between the sturdiness and the adventurous character of the 4x4 but at the same time offers all the comfort, space and high end finishing that is required of today’s family car. The ix35 has surprisingly also turned out to be a popular model in the fleet business.
Everyone is talking green, however Hyundai were reluctant in this regard as the company always opted for cleaner and more economical fuel based engines.
When Hyundai started becoming a big player in Europe, where environmental consciousness is very high, Hyundai’s position vis-à-vis this aspect changed a lot. Hyundai’s cars today boast very low rates of emissions. The i10 stands at 99g, the i20 at 84g, the i30 at 97g and the ix35 at 135g which is very good for an SUV. Considering CO² emissions, those models were “best in segment” when launched in the markets.