- Parkers meets UK director to discuss its company car aspirations
- Small business or sole trader? Lexus wants your business
- Customer service and dealer experience at heart of plans
Lexus is a relative minnow in the UK company car market right now, but it might be time to change our perceptions. While lots of company car drivers risk suffering financially as a result of the dieselgate scandal in the coming years, this luxury arm of Toyota currently sells precisely no diesel cars in the UK.
The time’s right to capitalise, then, and so Parkers took some time to sit down with Ewan Shepherd, director of Lexus UK, to discuss how this is likely to affect business drivers in the coming years.
It centres on the carmaker’s customer service record – something it has led the field in for many years.
‘We’ve created a concierge service that we’re piloting with two leasing companies at the moment,’ reports Shepherd.
‘Basically leasing companies have tended to go through either large national dealers or brokers to try and extend their reach and sell nationally.
‘We’ve said to them the best way to serve your customer base is for us to take the order, and manage that whole distribution process, but to have a relationship with your local dealer to make sure that your customer – the driver of your car – has a fantastic customer experience at the point of handover and also throughout ownership.
‘That’s a big difference that we can make compared to some of the other brands, who frankly put the car on the back of a transporter; someone with a high-vis jacket hands it over and slings the keys at you. We want to try and differentiate ourselves that way.’
Small business? Try Lexus Business Drive
‘Secondly, our primary focus is to get the dealers to focus on small, local businesses, and treat them like a genuine Lexus customer, like a retail owner effectively, as a one-man band and give them the full Lexus personalised experience.
‘We’ve got a product called Business Drive – a one-on-one small business contract hire offer – and that’s our biggest channel for fleet in the UK for Lexus. It’s meant it’s all sold within the immediate vicinity of our dealers so we can back it up with quality aftersales service.’
Building the Lexus brand
But Shepherd also recognises there’s a job to do to grow Lexus into a credible fleet player in the wider car market. This is how he plans to do it.
‘Our focus has to be to put forward our environmental and hybrid credentials, because that then leads to better cost of ownership for the fleet buyer.
‘The other thing we’ve been doing is to grow the residual value of Lexus in the UK. Over the last two years a lot of the fleet industry has neglected Lexus because we’ve not been a big fleet player. We spent a lot of time working with leasing companies and residual value companies to remind them of our low CO2 and tax benefit credentials.
‘Also we sell a lot fewer Lexus than the German brands sell [of equivalent models], so we’re quite a rarity. To have a Lexus on your fleet you’re going to have a nicely balanced fleet that’s going to have lower cost of ownership taking all those things into account.
‘To be honest, it’s not paid dividends yet, because at the time we were doing all this work the Germans have been benefitting from a very strong pounds-to-euros rate and have been deploying that benefit into the UK in terms of discount.
‘I think we’ll see that now coming in the next year or so because the pound-euro relationship is very different to where it was a year ago. So that should play to make sure we’re a bit more competitive in the UK market.
‘A combination of all of these things means I think we are progressively telling a story. Our cars are great to look at and people are more open now to hybrid and also our design.
‘We’re getting more enquires, but there’s a lag in the towrope in terms of sales.’
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