An interview with Jason Smith – Head of Fleet Operations – Lookers plc
An interview with Jason Smith, Head of Fleet Operation for Lookers Plc
A specialist in managing sales and customer service initiatives, both on-line and field based. A diplomatic and creative leadership style with over 25 years experience of customer focus.
How long have you worked in the industry?
I’ve racked up just under 30 years now, starting as a junior Fleet Sales Exec at a Ford dealer for 10 years before moving on for a similar period in a VW/Audi franchise, ultimately landing in a multi-franchise group role for Benfield Motor Group. The industry has been generous to me, rich in opportunity and filled with brilliant people with whom I’ve grown and learned from. I still consider myself on a learning curve as the pace of change continues, that’s ultimately the reason I’m still here.
How has the industry changed in the last 5 years?
I think the shape of the company car market has continued to evolve in response to government policy, technological advances and increasing environmental consciousness. Change can sometimes feel challenging and places us outside of our comfort zones. Without that evolution, however, we would not have seen such rapid progress in the market which promises great things in the future. Our company car culture is quite unique across Europe and emerged as a convenient part of remuneration packages back in the 1970s when pay freezes were commonplace. Things have clearly moved on since then, but I can feel a step-change in how we see the car as a perk now. We’re still in love with our cars but are seeking more innovative ways to fund them now.
What’s the funniest/ biggest EV myth you’ve come across?
There is still a perception of electric vehicles being marginally more advanced milk floats! Thankfully that is now seen as an outdated view. There’s also the more common misconception that you can’t use a car wash with an electric vehicle – first world problems!
What does the future of the car industry look like?
It would be foolhardy for anyone to say they really know where it’s going but I’d hazard a guess that it’s electric shaped and with more innovative payment plans, perhaps moving towards a subscription model in much the same way that we pay for our smartphones, listen to music or cable TV packages. Additionally, there is less brand loyalty – consumers pick from across a wide range of manufacturer offerings, less inhibited by historical concerns about reliability in one manufacturer over another. There are almost no unreliable cars these days, so it comes down to aesthetics, features and cost of acquisition.
Which is your favourite EV model at the moment and why?
Aesthetically I love the BMW i3, it was one of the first electric models that really turned heads as a beautiful car, regardless of the technology interest. Volkswagen’s ID.3 is also set to be an exciting entry to the EV story.
Are you surprised by the uptake of EVs?
I’m not surprised by the interest but a little surprised we’ve not moved to improve the infrastructure around them more quickly. A significant change in attitude to electric vehicles will only come when we can remove the anxiety around charging. There are still too many unanswered questions for the curious car buyer. The traditional engine still has a role to play for those remaining unconvinced but as electric cars continue to improve with each new model the big change will be powered by customer demand and the infrastructure will inevitably follow.
Which car do you drive?
I’m one of those drivers who can’t quite square my expected mileage with my perception of charging coverage just yet – An Audi Q5 is still my vehicle of choice. I suspect that will change within the next 12 months, however. Watch this space..
What projects are you currently working on?
We’re at the very advanced stages of launching powerful, interactive and branded personal leasing websites where customers can source vehicle leasing in a transparent and straight forward way. We understand that leasing a vehicle is a new concept for the traditional car buyer so we’re keen to simplify it and present all our best offers on one platform. We’re also aiming to be the go-to provider for the growing cash-for-car market, helping organisations to offer company car drivers an alternative option.
Jason Smith Fleet Operations Manager for Lookers plc
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