Julie David, Peugeot UK managing director

With greater than 25 years’ expertise within the automotive enterprise Peugeot UK MD Julie David is now setting about upping the French marque’s sport.

Written by Man Fowl


“I actually hope that in my lifetime there might be a change in how individuals really feel about shopping for a automotive,” mentioned Peugeot UK MD Julie David, “to the purpose the place individuals really sit up for the method, whether or not that automotive is new, or new to them.” She’s musing on the problem of getting previous previous automotive seller clichés, and as an automotive business veteran of greater than 1 / 4 of a century’s standing – in roles as various as world experiential advertising and marketing director and world franchise operations and retail technique for JLR, plus stints at Audi, Skoda, Volkswagen and Ford in fleet, retail and rental and because the founding father of a consultancy in technique and profession teaching – she has a powerful understanding of the place that cliché comes from. “That’s why I by no means use the time period ‘seller’. I believe it’s actually essential to name them retailers,” she continued, “as a result of the minute you say ‘seller’ you might be reinforcing the thought that there’s a ‘deal’ to be accomplished and as a buyer you’ll by no means know in the event you obtained the proper deal.”

We met for the interview within the Aqua restaurant in The Shard, with its unbelievable views over London and a spot the place customer support is finished fantastically, however subtly. It’s a enterprise attribute many within the business discuss, however that David appears to genuinely assume deeply upon, and has labored exhausting to tangibly enhance since becoming a member of Peugeot as UK MD in January 2021. Being unannounced earlier than the day she joined allowed her to personally mystery-shop each Peugeot and different sellers with out concern of being recognised. “It was the summer time of 2020, publish the primary lockdown, so there was numerous social distancing and tape in all places,” she recalled, “however in the event you take away that aspect of it, what I used to be on the lookout for was the presentation of the location, how that made me really feel, and the individuals. My [story] situation was shopping for an electrical car, and whereas there was a transparent ardour for the Peugeot model one of many greatest issues I discovered again then was a insecurity in promoting EVs.”

Seller coaching modified because of this thriller store, shifting from simply being concerning the new product or sure gross sales views, to particular EV coaching together with two current days driving electrical automobiles at Gaydon for gross sales execs, whether or not they be new to the model, or been there 20 years. David conceded that the driving days would have taken place earlier had been if not for COVID pandemic protocols and that on-line coaching happened earlier than that. She additionally pinpointed a second key discovering from her thriller purchasing that she needed to vary inside Peugeot: “I did some visits with my completely different sons and one other factor I discovered was salespeople pre-judging what they needed to promote you, somewhat than what you needed – and that wasn’t simply Peugeot that was everyone. The power to have a relaxed, human interplay to grasp what that particular person wants is so essential. I’ve subsequently had conversations with the group heads of in all places I mystery-shopped and instructed them my observations. I did additionally recognise the one who did the most effective mystery-shop. He was youthful than my son, the youngest particular person within the retailer and with the least expertise, however essentially the most pure in dialog and adopted by with one in all my sons to the purpose the place my son mentioned, ‘I believe I would even have to purchase this automotive’. It was a very optimistic expertise for me to go and do it earlier than I used to be identified.”

Since that mid-2020 second there’s been huge change in acceptance and adoption of electrified automobiles within the UK, not solely throughout the business, however with Peugeot particularly, the place arguably it has been forward of a lot of competitors when it comes to its EV vary. Its low-emission car passenger automotive gross sales combine (together with plug-in hybrids and EVs) jumped from 11.2% in 2020 to nearly 20% in 2021. Since then, from Jan-July 2022, its full-electric e208 has change into its fourth best-seller general, forward of the 5008 and behind the 3008, 2008 and 208. The household hatchback 308 Mk3 that launched within the UK in June and its fashionable 408 crossover cousin unveiled a couple of weeks later in the identical month, will add to buyer choices and each include plug-in hybrid choices.

However the model nonetheless solely recorded a 3.7% UK passenger automotive market share in 2021 (barely up on 3.5% in 2020) or 4.5% with vehicles and vans mixed (up from 4.4% in 2020). The LCV market is a vital one for Peugeot, representing 30,761 in 2021 – or simply shy of half its passenger gross sales whole and it has three eLCVs on sale and claims present second spot in UK electrical vans gross sales behind  sister model Vauxhall. However now a part of the huge Stellantis Group since its merger of PSA and FCA in January 2021, Peugeot just isn’t in need of sister model competitors. The way to stand out? “When Stellantis was created it was outlined,” mentioned David. “You’ve got Maserati [up top] then luxurious manufacturers like Alfa and DS, and Jeep – enjoying in that 4×4 market – and barely above. The 2 manufacturers that had been put collectively had been Vauxhall and Peugeot. Then Citroen and Fiat type of collectively too. However the fact is, that’s not how all our clients see it. There was discuss being a ‘high-end generalist’, however which means nothing to anyone. We’re an aspirational, inexpensive, design-led and enticing model. You will notice that play out within the subsequent three-to-five years and we’re a strategic marketplace for Peugeot so we get loads of affect on the place it ought to sit.”

This UK affect is little doubt assisted by having Brits in excessive positions at a world Peugeot stage, from CEO Linda Jackson to world head of selling and communications Phil York and the British group even lays declare to having had the digital buttons on the brand new 308 and 408 tailored in order that those clients use most are as shut as potential to the driving force in right-hand drive fashions, a change made extra potential as a result of they’re not bodily switches, however an essential one nonetheless. “We’re a market that’s revered, and never simply due to gross sales,” David mentioned with confidence. “The worldwide group need to hear what we now have to say. The secret’s to have interaction early.” The UK is generally second in world gross sales – alongside Italy – behind Peugeot’s native French market and relying on how the Chinese language market is doing, so it’s extremely related.

Regardless of that, in 2021 Peugeot was solely the eleventh greatest marque by UK automotive gross sales and its top-selling 2008 solely thirtieth within the wider checklist of high automotive mannequin registrations, so David feels the model has nice potential to be amplified additional and nicely past its present buyer base, whose common age is 56. “We have to rejuvenate and reenergise the model,” she mentioned, “I really consider with the product vary we’ve obtained, not solely when it comes to design, which is one in all key attributes, we’re now speaking a few single model promise of ‘attract’ – which is concerning the energy of attraction. My function is to be sure that interprets right into a buyer and model expertise that’s commensurate with the automobiles. I consider Peugeot has an enormous alternative to change into extra ‘first desire’ for individuals.”

Does that imply Peugeot wants completely different sorts of sellers than beforehand? “For me it’s not concerning the numbers, however the high quality and perspective,” David mentioned. “I worth individuals for the way they method the model and see the chance. Stellantis went by a interval of terminating [dealer agreements] final yr, however that’s to not say we don’t need any of them, however to vary the contracts to permit us to be extra agile, as soon as we all know what the Block Exemption Regulation are going to vary to. It’s typically seen as a detrimental however really that contractual relationship is a two-way factor. I’m actually respectful to retailers as a result of I really consider the place they’re situated and who they’re and their perspective is crucial factor, not having a blanket method.”

However is it actually a two-way road? “Completely,” David responded with out hesitation. “Why ought to they do one thing brilliantly if we don’t? It’s about placing the satisfaction again into being related to the Peugeot model. With our product, powertrain and company identification it’s a superb time to be a part of the model, regardless of all the opposite challenges – that are challenges for everyone – and past the auto business.”

At present Peugeot has 184 UK sellers which is definitely barely up on August 2020 (180). In essentially the most just lately printed NFDA Seller Angle Survey of Winter 2021/2022, sellers representing Peugeot positioned their producer very a lot within the center on most questions, however barely greater on seller coaching and availability of merchandise. Does David assume her affect has made the distinction in these areas? “The distinction with the coaching we’re doing now’s we’re ensuring every part has an expertise angle to it,” she defined. “We’re making an attempt to get our retailers to inform the story of the advantages of issues much more, somewhat than simply product attributes. The way in which we ship it has modified barely since I joined, with extra emphasis on the ‘how’ and ‘why’. Like our now well-known claw mild signature and the explanation behind the feline posture of our vehicles and the way a salesman would translate that attribute to the shopper. We encourage all of them to consider how greatest to have interaction clients in what it feels prefer to dwell with a BEV or PHEV by their very own experiences. After which design participating check drive routes to make sure that for every buyer there’s a good route that demonstrates the driving expertise to be able to make their buy resolution.”

David believes Peugeot’s current model identification change – to a 2D Lion head brand and a flatter, cleaner font – “has helped to modernise it, whereas giving a nod to our heritage,” and desires the marque to be extra enticing to Era Z [1997-2012] “to place the fervour again into driving, design and the driving expertise.” Experiential advertising and marketing across the product itself is being explored, with a presence at Goodwood and Le Mans – the place the Batmobile-esque Peugeot 9X8 automotive will race in 2023 – and younger driver EV coaching days are being promoted too. Seen fleets are nonetheless essential to public perceptions, with vital offers with the police and Royal Mail quietly suggesting Peugeots have the acceptable reliability and efficiency for such powerful roles. ‘Pure retail’ gross sales in 2021 equalled 31.2%, Motability 13.9% and fleet 50.8% however David is detest to make predictions for 2022, because the semi-conductor chip scarcity continued to upset provide. “We’re restricted by manufacturing and it’s so unpredictable, even inside the month,” she conceded, earlier than including with a wry smile, “by no means has there been a lot dialogue as to what ships are touchdown in port and on what day [with deliveries].”

On-line gross sales are a longtime route for Peugeot now too, with 15% of gross sales in 2021 accomplished in that method. However regardless of the model claiming to be one of many first to have an internet site able to finishing the entire transaction digitally – apart from the ultimate pick-up or supply – in follow (free) residence deliveries are a small quantity proper now, with most clients nonetheless selecting to have the handover within the retail area, to get the total rationalization of the car.

“Usually it isn’t a pure on-line sale, however a mix of digital and bodily,” mentioned David. “I believe the distinction between now and 18 months in the past is that our sellers now see that as a optimistic factor, versus a risk. This ‘blended’ method to promoting is far more accepted, and throughout society, not simply the automotive business.”

Throughout such unsure occasions, David is working exhausting to offer Peugeot  each benefit, however nonetheless appreciates downtime together with her household and specifically being on the water.

“I’ve sons into power-boating and just lately I obtained into paddle-boarding too, which may be very tranquil and exquisite,” she mentioned. “It’s beautiful train and you are able to do it on the tempo you select, so it’s very enjoyable.” Again on dry land, vehicles have at all times been essential, from the primary automotive she ever purchased, appropriately a Peugeot 106 GT – “I couldn’t afford a 205 GTI!” – to her present 308 GT PHEV 225, which she appreciates for its powertrain flexibility and exterior and inside design.

In the end, as she repeats in several methods all through the interview, she actually does seem to worth good sellers and need them to succeed because the model transforms into an electrical car supplier and succeeds with them.

“There’s most likely extra of a motive for a showroom dialog and check drive with an EV than there has ever been,” mentioned David.

“We speak to retailers about that on a regular basis, which is why I discover it actually odd after I speak to individuals who don’t see a task for retailers, as a result of I completely do.”

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