Fleet sales proved to be an important contribution to Opel’s excellent sales figures for Q1 2016. In addition, the new Opel Astra has been crowned Car of the Year 2016 in Europe. Not a bad starting position for Wolfgang Stahl, who took over as Opel’s director for European fleet sales from Ian Hucker on January 1, 2016. But Wolfgang Stahl is ambitious: “We don’t want to rely on strong products alone, we want stronger customer relationships,” he said.
To learn more about Stahl’s initiatives to grow the Opel fleet business, he was interviewed by Steven Schoefs, editor of Fleet Europe magazine. Below are excerpts from the interview as published in Fleet Europe magazine and www.fleeteurope.com.
Schoefs: What are your main goals for corporate fleet this year and the next?
Stahl: Firstly, to have a successful launch for all our new models. We have two launches later this year with an important fleet angle: the new Zafira and the new Mokka X. Our Ampera-e will be an image builder, an electric car with a range that will surprise the market, and even more new models to come very soon.
These product launches will bring their full effect with continuing our efforts to increase our customer relationships to our fleet and rental customers. We receive highly positive feedback from all of our fleet customers in our daily work, and we are jointly exploring further initiatives to make business more effective with Opel. I am convinced we are recognized as being “approachable” and high willingness to listen to our customer needs.
Secondly, we will continue our focused business approach in the LCV segment. We increased the capacity to meet the strong customer demand for our “winner model” Vivaro. We also established Pan-European agreements with well-known and high-quality converters, enabling us to offer individual converter solutions with Pan-European availability. We now bring that opportunity into the dealerships and into the customers’ understanding.
A third focus is the launch of the new captive. We will now start expanding the product portfolio and service offering of GM Financial in Germany into full-service leasing offers — because that’s what our customers are asking.
Schoefs: Will you roll out the German solution to other markets?
Stahl: Take Belgium for example, where private lease is growing fast. We tested how retail customers would react via a special campaign with LeasePlan and Media Markt. Very positive, it turned out, so we developed as well a private lease solution with our white label partner, ALD Automotive. We are looking for what the customer needs. We want to be a mobility provider, not a classic OEM.
Schoefs: Do you have any focus markets for fleets this year?
Stahl: From a market perspective, definitely Germany. We are a German brand after all, and we see opportunities in the commercial customer area. But, from a less country-driven perspective, we are putting our SME customer needs in focus.
Schoefs: With both passenger cars and LCVs in your portfolio, is it possible for corporate fleet customers to have a one-stop shop approach at Opel?
Stahl: On the sales side, we’re keen on the one-stop shop approach to support the customer. We don’t operate in separate silos. Look to any local organization, we’ll have an LCV manager strongly included in the commercial activities. So, yes, we offer one customer contact point for LCVs and passenger cars.
Schoefs: Opel has recently launched a range of services for LCVs, in support of the product itself. What exactly are you offering?
Stahl: Last year, we launched a “House of Conversion,” where we are doing factory-close conversions with some of our partners. But we also have a strong focus on pan-European converters, so a customer can have a single-invoice solution certified by us. We also offer two-invoice certified solutions. And the fourth one local solutions because of very specific needs in the markets.
In short, conversion is a strong growth opportunity for us, in combination with our strong dealer network throughout Europe — especially now we can offer pan-European solutions.
Schoefs: How do you see the trend towards mobility evolving?
Stahl: All players in the commercial arena — rental and leasing companies and OEMS — need to come together to find an answer to the unstoppable change that is coming: pay per use.
OEMs alone can’t do this. So we’re looking for partners. For example, our telematics teams are working with several companies to develop solutions based on the connected car.
Schoefs: What advice do you have for corporate fleet managers who want to optimize their international fleet management?
Stahl: Don’t just look for rebates! Aim for a partnership relationship, one that delivers products you want and has an international presence. So make sure your partner can deliver on behalf of your users — the drivers.
Editor's note: This article first appeared online in the Q3 Global Fleet Market Conditions supplement published in October of 2016.