Honda's brilliant Urban EV Concept
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HONDA has had something of an on-off relationship with the fleet sector and leasing companies.

But the relationship definitely hit the ‘on’ switch in January 2017 when Marc Samuel was appointed Fleet Sales Operations Manager.

It’s also followed up with a series of product presentations from concept to production ready cars that suggests Honda’s beginning to get its mojo back.

Cars such as the brilliant Urban EV Concept – promised to move from Frankfurt Show Star to production reality – to fleet staples such as the diesel Honda Civic and new CR-V SUV with seven seat ability and hybrid options.

Marc Samuel from Honda
Marc Samuel from Honda

But can leasing companies and fleets be sure of this rediscovered interest in the corporate sector by Honda?

Marc Samuel is certain on this score: “We’re in it for the long haul as far as senior management is concerned.”

He jokes that Honda will be less ‘hokey coke’ and more consistent.

“We are a recognisable brand, a sporty brand, but a sporty brand that’s underpinned by great reliability. The loyalty we have from customers is fantastic.

“Since I started in my new role I’ve been quite vocal that Honda should be on choice lists, visiting leasecos to make sure that we are on customer shopping lists.”

Samuel says the corporate proposition is supported by the company’s 107 Platinum dealers.

The Honda Sports EV Concept
The Honda Sports EV Concept

A Platinum dealer offers specialists who can talk to company car drivers about BIK issues or a company director wanting to look at finance for the fleet. There are 48 hour test drives available. “Platinum dealers can respond in a manner commensurate with a customer’s expectations,” says Marc.

Honda is around a 2% player in the car market, so if Honda is going to be more fleet focused what percentage will the corporate sector take of Honda sales?

“So far this year we’re at 36% of sales. My expectation is that this percentage will grow over time with a product list that fits people’s expectations and mirror where the industry is going in terms of fleet and leasing at about 56% of corporate sales.”

Honda Corporate team grows

To support Honda’s growing corporate aspirations, Samuel has been expanding the corporate sales team.

Recently the team was expanded by three with Dave Bolwell joining as National Fleet Sales Manager; Ben Morris and Dave Lythgoe as Major Account Managers.

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“These three new appointments are absolutely key for ensuring Honda can deliver a market-leading service to its corporate customers,” says Marc

These three newcomers join established National Leasing Managers Simon Barrett and Angela Hall.

Simon looks after sales growth within the FN50 leasing companies and mobility, while Angela looks after the top 15 FN50 companies

“They have the same volume but different portfolios. So they engage at every level with the leasing companies.”

The new cars heading Honda’s fleet push

“The diesel version of our new Civic went on sale in March and despite the current uncertainty over diesel, remains an important car for fleet,” says Marc pointing out its combined fuel figure of 80.7mpg.

The new Honda Civic Diesel has also attracted valuable RVs from CAP rate setters with best in class RVs.

The Honda CRV which goes on sale later this year

But like other manufacturers, Honda is engaged on an electrification and hybridisation programme, and plans to have two thirds of its line up electrified by 2025.

“We’ll start first will start with the CR-V which goes on sale in petrol later in 2018 and in early 2019 there will be a hybrid version. But there will be no diesel.

“Then there’s the Urban EV concept with the order bank opening in 2019.”

There’s also the exciting Sports EV concept – which will hopefully go into production too, although Honda has not confirmed this to be the case.

And what about hydrogen?

“We still have Clarity,” says Marc. “We were quite clear that when our EVs launched that Fuel Cell (FC) was still our end game. We’ll have a mix of EV, PHEV, Hybrid and FC.

“But Clarity currently isn’t something that will be mass produced. But the intention is to have that car as a viable product within the next 10 years.”

Honda and leasecos in 2018

Marc says that his Honda corporate team is still networking through the businesses.

“We’ve hosted a number of events to let them drive the cars because we want to have better coverage. However, we want to provide vehicles to customers in a profitable way. We’ve done a lot with leasing support over last 18 months – now we need to get them to the point of buying.”

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With an improved product line up, and a concerted focus on the leasing and fleet sector, Honda should haul itself back onto the list of user choosers. Permanently.

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