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Interview: Kris Cholmondeley, Citroën

Citroën will continue to grow its share of the van market, new head of business sales Kris Cholmondeley tells Dan Gilkes.

Kris Cholmondeley, head of business sales, Citroën
Kris Cholmondeley, head of business sales, Citroën

Citroën saw modest growth in UK van sales last year, despite dropping one of its four model lines. With Nemo no longer in production, the French firm is relying on its stalwart Berlingo, the new Dispatch and the larger Relay van to continue this rise going forwards.

“2017 was successful, we grew our sales modestly, from 7.38% to 7.68% market share,” said Kris Cholmodeley, Citroën’s recently appointed head of business sales.

“We are predicting a market decline this year of around 9%, so our sales will decline in volume, but we are looking for a 7.85% market share in 2018.”

Berlingo remains a key player for the firm, though we should see news of its replacement towards the end of the year. Relay has made the move to Euro 6 and will remain unchanged this year too. The real growth potential therefore, has to come from the new Dispatch.

“We shouldn’t be satisfied with where we are today with Dispatch, though it has been positive,” said Cholmondeley.

“The key for me is not being complacent.”

That means ensuring the firm’s dealers are in a good position to make the most of business sales. There are currently 70 Business Centres across the UK, but he believes there are still gaps in coverage.

“I’ve inherited a strong network, the Business Centres are well established and the service we give, by and large, is excellent,” he said.

“As a global trend there is a decline in retail service, but we are hugely passionate about business service. I’m really happy with 75% of our dealers, so the focus needs to be on the 25%.”

Cholmondeley predicts that there will, inevitably, be some changes and additions to the network this year. Unlike most competitors, who separate cars from van sales, Citroën believes that a business customer is a business customer, whether they are buying cars or LCVs.

As part of the service offer, every centre will have a business manager, who will be able to access the internet from a customer’s premises to retrieve quotes and vehicle data. Cholmondeley also wants to improve both the company’s demonstration and courtesy fleets, in support of the dealers.

“I want to win together with our dealers. We are a team,” he said. “What differentiates us is our heritage of selling vans and our dealer network – the service, the after sales and offering good value for money.”

Citroën will look more closely at its used van business too, as better management of the used fleet will help with residual value strength. The company intends to put a lot more of its used vans through the dealer network in the coming years.

“We’re already seeing big success in that,” said Cholmondeley.

“Another key strategy is to be a lot smarter in managing our sales mix, including less short cycle business. We are looking a lot more at the big picture and that will accelerate this year and next.”

The final area of potential growth, is electric vehicles. At present, Citroën only offers the Berlingo Electric, in both L1 and L2 bodies, but there will be more to come. Likewise, where there are currently 11 dealers that are electric specialists, this number too will grow as demand increases.

“We have a clear commitment,” said Cholmondeley. “The ambition is to be 80% electric by 2023, either battery or hybrid. We are seeing more customers dipping a toe in the electric van market.”

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Written by Dan Gilkes

Dan has been a commercial vehicle and construction equipment journalist for almost 30 years. An automotive engineer and former fleet manager, he has driven almost every van, pickup and truck that has been launched in Europe over that time. As editor of VFW, his aim is to keep readers up to date with the latest developments in the light commercial world.

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