Peugeot’s new UK boss is on a mission to make the car-buying experience more ‘enjoyable’.
Managing director Julie David told Car Dealer she believes it’s ‘sad’ that customers ‘fear’ entering showrooms.
‘I really hope that in my lifetime I will see a change in the way people feel about buying a car,’ she said.
‘One of our biggest successes would be if we could get to a point where people look forward to the process of buying a new car as much as getting a new car.
‘I think it’s so sad that we still have a situation where people fear going into a showroom – they fear the interaction with salespeople.
‘So, my biggest thing would be if we could achieve a situation where customers enjoy the experience and not feel pressurised.’
David added she thinks the word ‘dealer’ plays an unfortunate role in customers’ perceptions of buying their next car.
‘I never use the word “dealer” because I think it’s really important to call them “retailers”. Because the minute you say “dealer”, you are almost reinforcing the fact that there’s a deal to be done.
‘“Did I get the right deal? Actually, did I get the experience I wanted to get the car that suited my lifestyle? Was it affordable?” They’re far more important to people.’
David was speaking after completing 18 months in the MD’s chair, having taken over from David Peel, who has since moved on to head up dealer group Pentagon.
She was appointed in January 2021 after a 25-year career in automotive, with spells at Ford, Audi, Volkswagen and Skoda.
Most recently, she was experiential marketing director at Jaguar Land Rover – a role that spanned more than two years during her six-year-plus stint at the British brand.
Peugeot UK only announced the news of David’s appointment on the day she began the role.
She said this was something that allowed her to evaluate how the French brand – and its major competitors – treated customers in the buying process before she was a recognisable face within the Peugeot dealer network.
‘To be fair, when I was mystery shopping it was during the summer of 2020, post the first lockdown, so there was a lot of social distancing and lots of dreadful tape everywhere, which was obviously very different from what you would expect from a normal retail experience,’ she explained.
‘But what I was looking for was the presentation at the [dealership] sites and how that made me feel, and how the people engaged with me – that’s really what matters, isn’t it?
‘Honestly, there was passion for the [Peugeot] brand, but one of the things I noticed was a lack of confidence in selling electric vehicles, the confidence in seeing electric as yet another alternative.
‘I knew this was something we had to address because we are so ahead of the game when it comes to powertrain offerings. I’m delighted to say this is something I think we have fixed.’
David also added that last year, after the last lockdown, she and her team carried out a ‘huge’ research piece to better understand the end-to-end customer buying process for both new and used cars.
‘We did it through the eyes of design experience experts to understand how you can make a difference with lots of very small things, and we also looked at it through the eyes of the customer.
‘We recruited lots of customers at different points of their journey, and really importantly, we looked at the buying process through the eyes of the retailers.
‘We wanted to know what frustrated the retailers, what were the things that would make a difference to them, and what would help them deliver a great customer experience.
‘So, we’re working this across the [Stellantis] business and saying this is what we found and what we want to try and do, and this is where we want to make it particular for Peugeot.
‘We want to bring about this brand promise of allure for Peugeot and how we make it a desirable brand.
‘That’s beyond the product – this is about the experience I have when I own the product. I don’t believe much of the industry has cracked this and we’ve got a great opportunity to do that.’
The process of making the whole buying and owning experience more desirable has already begun, said David.
‘We launched it with the new 308 and we said [to our retailers] we’re going to train you about more than just selling the product – How are we going to sell the car’s features? How are we going to turn that into a story?
‘How are we going to make sure that every single conversation that happens has been designed in a way that makes sure that the customer really and truly understands the products’ attributes, and also what it means to own a Peugeot?
‘Honestly, the thing that I have been really astonished about by coming into the brand is the loyalty once you get someone into Peugeot – and I don’t just mean customers. We’ve been speaking on how to recognise people who have done 35 or 40 years in the business – that level of loyalty is astonishing. We’ve got to make sure that they are then able to articulate that.’
The full interview with Julie David will appear in the next issue of Car Dealer magazine