SEAT: A fleet for the future - Giuseppe Tommaso




Controlling fleet management costs is essential for any large company, but efficiency need not come at the cost of quality and driver satisfaction. We speak to Giuseppe Tommaso, fleet sales and remarketing director at Spanish car giant SEAT, about how manufacturers can help corporate customers optimise their fleet solution.


In large corporates, the need to find efficiency in the fleet is matched only by the complexity of managing a large number of vehicles.Car manufacturers can help to ease the burden of this complexity, as Giuseppe Tommaso, fleet sales and remarketing director at SEAT, explains.

"Many fleet managers ask for our support to identify the assets they own. So our mission is to provide solutions and advice that respond to their specific needs," he says.

"The biggest challenge for global companies in managing their fleet is mainly to be able to track their car park and understand different drivers' profiles. Often, we talk to customers and they do not even know how many cars they have, and they may have no clue about the status of the cars or the mileage. So, the most important thing is to take control of the car park because that leads to savings. They have to know how many cars they have, where they are located, how their drivers use their cars and what the status of each car is. If SEAT can provide solutions that allow those organisations to take control and track the car park, this can deliver tremendous benefits."

SEAT is a Spanish automobile manufacturer headquartered in its industrial complex in Martorell, near Barcelona. Founded in 1950, it is now a wholly owned subsidiary of Germany's Volkswagen Group, and it draws on over 60 years' experience to design not only cars but also comprehensive solutions to meet the fleet needs of large corporates. Its aim is to blend the well-being and comfort of drivers with the commercial needs of purchase managers who need to ensure they are getting the best value for money.

The company's range of models is extensive, covering an extraordinarily wide range of car choices that a fleet manager could need, and all blend dynamic and stylish vehicles with high-quality manufacturing, safety components and up-to-date technology.

Furthermore, it has focused a lot of effort on fuel efficiency to ensure it provides eco-friendly vehicles that maintain their residual value and allow corporate customers to benefit from low total cost of ownership. SEAT For Business is about giving drivers and fleet managers what they need, and its packages can be tailored to the individual needs of a company to ensure that service, maintenance and repair costs are managed within expectations.

Tommaso's role at SEAT is to manage global fleet sales, used-car profitability and residual value. Since taking the job in 2012, he has come to understand the changing view that fleet managers and, ultimately finance directors, have of cost management.

"The most important factor for a purchase manager is, of course, cost. This can be looked at in many ways. One way is total cost of ownership - TCO - which means how much a car will cost over a certain period of time and over a certain number of kilometres. We are working on that basis, but there is another way, which is to look at total cost of mobility, or TCM. Even if cars give people a lot of freedom, we cannot get them everywhere, so we need to combine it with the use of trains, planes or taxis," he says.

"We are working on this kind of TCM solution by combining the cost of the car with the cost of other means of transportation, even if there are not a lot of synergies today that provide reliable data. Not all car manufacturers are providing this kind of service, but it will be very important for the future evolution of fleet management."

Stay close to corporate customers

SEAT's model for fleet services has many strands but all stem from a desire to have a close relationship with its customers. This includes not only a focus on maintaining a strong local presence in many markets, but also a strong emphasis on evolving products and services to keep pace with changing needs.

"It is important to assist global organisations in the markets where they operate. We stay close to our customers and within our global offering we also have a lot of local specifications to meet their needs not only in terms of sales but also service capacity," says Tommaso.

The company has also strived to incorporate the growing importance of environmental factors in designing its cars. Its philosophy is that the greener your fleet runs, the more cost-efficient it is, so its Ecomotive fleet range ensures that cars run clean without compromising performance. Greater engine efficiency reduces emissions, which reduces fuel costs and, potentially, vehicle taxes. The process of innovation, however, goes far beyond the issue of greener motoring.

"Innovation is a key element for all car manufacturers. If we can facilitate the life of purchase managers in understanding their car park then we can really give the best support to them. The biggest innovation area we are working on is the 'connected car'. The car can be turned into something like a mobile phone so that is able to transmit a lot of data on factors such as location, the time taken between different places and the status of the car. It could also suggest the best route to save money or time, which improves the efficiency of the fleet. For instance, if a fleet manager can rotate a number of cars to ensure they all have similar mileage, that can give great benefit," Tommaso remarks.

The right utility

Another area where innovation is important is the design of new vehicles. SEAT recently entered a new market segment with the Ateca, its first SUV. The aim was to design an SUV that has the same manoeuvrability and handling as a car.

"Overall, more than a third of our customers are looking for an SUV, so it is a big market. In terms of fleet purchase, 21% of people are looking for an SUV, which is much more than, for example, station wagons or estate cars. The Ateca is 100% designed in Barcelona, so it reflects the beauty and creativity of the city. It has a robust image and a classic design, but is still very compact and offers an excellent quality of driving experience. You can even set different driving profiles to suit different drivers," Tommaso explains.

"It suits not only the 'user chooser' who is looking for an emotional purchase with more content like driver personalisation but also the more rational part of the fleet equation that is more concerned with limiting the cost of ownership. It has a 360° camera and the remote assistant can help if there is poor visibility. It also has 'traffic jam assist' and 'parking assist'. You can be confident that the car is taking care of you."

The advent of driverless cars is also pushing the company to work on autonomous driving systems. "Companies will want 'connected' cars and perhaps autonomous driving for efficiency in the future. But there will still be benefit cars for employees of a certain grade, and they will be looking for more of an emotional purchase based on design and driving experience," notes Tommaso.

The fleet has become a bigger cost on the balance sheet for big companies and manufacturers increasingly understand the demands on purchase managers who are responsible for buying many things, not just cars. For SEAT, this means that innovation also extends to the provision of consultancy services. It can offer advice on how to save money, improve safety and deliver a better experience for drivers.

"Consultancy covers costs, how to get the best model for each category of driver, and how to ensure the balance between efficiency and driver satisfaction," says Tommaso. "The fleet market will continue to evolve. In the past, the fleet portion of our market was not as big as it is today. Now, almost 50% of the market is registered as fleet, so the company car is increasingly becoming a benefit to help retain employees. I think the future will be about mobility and additional services to facilitate the life of drivers, as well as providing cost-efficiency for the purchase manager, and being easy to understand and put into practice."

SEAT is proving that car manufacturers today understand much more than simply how to build a better car. They can also help companies get the best out of fleet cars throughout their life cycle.

This article was adapted from an FDE TV interview; the full video can be viewed at http://tinyurl.com/zzxorem.

Giuseppe Tommaso, fleet sales and remarketing director at Spanish car giant SEAT.