Renault Trucks is providing a service as much as a vehicle, head of LCV Grahame Neagus tells Dan Gilkes.
Manufacturers are all looking for that unique selling point that will get fleet managers to walk through the dealership door, or to be more likely to pick up the phone or steer a mouse towards a sales person. While companies that build vans can talk about the individual features and benefits of their vehicles, those selling a model made by someone else have to look for alternative reasons to buy.
That’s very much the case at Renault Trucks (red Renault), which is somewhat confusingly now owned by the Volvo Group and not by the Renault car and van business (yellow Renault). Despite there being no connection between the two, Renault Trucks does market the Master range of vans from its previous French relative, giving this heavy goods manufacturer an in-road into the LCV market.
However in a sector where the van is not only sold as a Master (in red and yellow Renault forms) but as a Vauxhall Movano and as a Nissan NV400, creating a USP is not necessarily an easy thing to do.
“This is about education, education, education,” said Renault Trucks’ head of LCV Grahame Neagus.
“We offer a slightly different product, but a whole host of very different services. We want to go from being a ‘me too’ supplier, to becoming a ‘go to’ supplier.”
The difference, he said, is that the firm’s dealers are truck people, not car-based outlets. They understand many of the industry sectors that require a Master-sized van and look to provide transport solutions, rather than simply sell a van.
“We do set ourselves out differently. The advantage we have is that all of our dealers are unfazed about the complexities of operating a commercial vehicle. To us the vehicle is not a commodity, we are looking at customers that want a true partner in their business and our psyche is that we can be that,” said Neagus.
One example of this approach is potential mileage, with the company recently securing a small fleet order for high mileage Masters that many leasing companies simply wouldn’t have touched.
Renault Trucks is looking to push into the LCV market. Four years ago the company sold just 400 vans in the UK, last year that had risen to 1,465. Of that number around 70% were chassis cabs, demonstrating sales to traditionally heavy truck buyers.
However in the coming year the company will add 4×4 versions and have the opportunity to sell the recently announced Master Z.E. electric van, which it is hoped will lead to more non-truck fleet interest.
“We will alter the balance, though we will always have a relatively high percentage of chassis cabs,” said Neagus.
“In the next three years I would like to see us up to around 3,000 sales a year. We want to make a sustainable business, not just for us, but for our customers.”
Renault Trucks has 68 dealerships, all selling Master. Around half of those outlets are Renault-owned, so changing their focus is perhaps easier than for a manufacturer with a network of independent dealers.
Every one of those outlets will have an LCV specialist in the coming months and many will stock the firm’s Ready For Business pre-bodied conversions, which include factory-built tippers, dropsides, Lutons and box vans. Renault Trucks aims to add fridges, freezers, minibuses, welfare buses and aerial work platforms to a growing list of approved conversions for the Master chassis.
All of the dealers offer a 24/7 service, with customers able to have vehicles maintained and repaired overnight. Renault Trucks Financial Services is also a part of the Volvo Group, currently funding around 50% of Master sales for the company. The Group also owns contract hire business BRS.
“The BRS offer really sets us apart from everyone else,” said Neagus. “It takes contract hire to a completely new level. It’s a fully outsourced solution.”
Indeed as well as the vehicle, BRS can supply a full service including drivers, along with training for compliance issues.
“Our history has been very much selling to truck firms,” said Neagus. “Now we are looking to reach more customers and leasing firms. At 2.8-4.5 tonnes, the Renault Trucks Master has to be on a fleet’s shopping list.”