Peugeot UK’s product planning manager tells Car Dealer why he – and his dealers – are so excited about 508
How important is the new 508 to dealers?
Massively. It signals a statement of intent for us and dealers that we’re serious about the D segment. It shows we are serious about producing a car that stands up against the competition. And it gives fresh impetus to the B2B sales arena. As 407 has come towards the end of its life perhaps dealers haven’t approached local businesses as much as they would – whereas now they are very positive about 508 and they can.
How and to whom should dealers market this car?
Local businesses are key. We’ll be doing a lot internally in our fleet department to push this car too and prospecting customers to get appointments for dealers. We want to get traffic to dealers then it’ll be up to them to handle the enquiry and sell the features and benefits of the car. Our aspirations for 508 are fairly modest – 5,000 cars this year and 8,000 next. 407 at its peak did about 21,000 a year. That was in 2004. The market is different now with more niche products like MPVs and crossovers.
What sort of messages about 508 are key to get across to buyers?
We are pretty clear on those. The strap line for the TV commercial is ‘quality time’ so that’s how we want it pushed. Buyers might lead hectic, busy lives going up and down the country, but the moment they get in the car they’ll relax.
The marketing will build on this, saying that the best decisions are taken when the owners are in the car. We would hope dealers get 508 to where young professionals will hang out, so we’re thinking golf clubs, squash clubs, gyms.
So you’re gearing up for a big launch then?
Without doubt. 508 will be supported by the single biggest model marketing budget for 2011. It’ll be the biggest spend this year. The car has had really positive press coverage – the amount of times we’ve seen 508, Mercedes, Audi and BMW in one sentence is incredible. It gives dealers a shot in the arm to stand tall and declare that we’ve got a car that can compete. In March every salesperson will come to our head office for a 508 training programme to learn about the key selling points. We’ve got a clear way we want the car presented, focusing on the features not just ‘the deal’.
What about supply?
Well, I certainly hope there will be a waiting list for it. We’ve got very good control of our stock levels now. We try to let demand suck through the production so cars that arrive in dealers are predetermined. Average lead times are about eight weeks from start to finish.
Will there be any challenges that dealers will have to overcome with this car?
We want to be on people’s shopping lists with 508 – if there’re after a Passat then we want them to think about this car too. All the way through this launch process the important people have bought into this car with people like CAP being very kind. Residuals are good and are around second or third in class.
But how do you change perceptions of a ‘big French car’ with buyers?
I think we’re already doing that. 3008, 5008, RCZ have all won awards – we’ve had lots of external validation as to what great cars we’re making now. I’ve taken a 508 SW home and my neighbours have asked why I’d bought a Mercedes back. I had to explain it’s actually our new 508. I’d say to anyone: Set aside your preconceived ideas, drive it, live with it for a week and then see what you think about it.
What about a GTI version?
I don’t think there’s a market for it. Ford has the ST and Vauxhall has VXR options, but if you look at the sales stats it’s not a massive slice. To have it in the range would be nice if you’ve got the engine and the technology but you just don’t sell them. The range is so tax conscious now and CO2 led that we’re far better off positioning ourselves with fine design and quality.
With 85 per cent of sales to fleet and just 15 per cent to retail predicted, just how much business are dealers going to see?
A lot. Our directors believe that business needs to go through dealers. Yes, there will be fleet deals negotiated nationally but they will count towards dealer targets. We need our dealers to come along for the ride with this, we don’t want to do big deals and they’re left just to do the paperwork.
Click here to read our handbook on the new Peugeot 508