Maria Grazia Davino took over as group managing director of Stellantis UK last year. And while Stellantis plans to transfer to an agency model, Maria Grazia says that leasing brokers are very much part of the group’s plans for the future. Interview by Tristan Young.

STELLANTIS has pushed back its plans for a switch to retailer agency agreements until “late 2026” – at the earliest – and plans to keep multiple sales channels open, including leasing broker networks, according to the new UK group managing director Maria Grazia Davino.

Just over a year ago, Davino’s predecessor Paul Willcox stated Stellantis could reach a market share of 20% including both cars and LCVs by 2025. 

While she believes a market share of 20% is still possible, her target is to gain “1.5% minimum” market share each year.

“Today [Stellantis in the UK is] at 14% and if you look into the single brands you see that there is a potential. The potential is in the product line-up both for passenger cars and commercial vehicles. We have to express much more potential in retail with the products that we have. It’s a job to be done, but also in fleet we can do better.”

Part of Davino’s plan is to maximise sales in all areas including brokers.

“Brokers buy cars from [Stellantis] and from the competition. If they play a role in the market, they will play a role with me as well. I am not dogmatic on this topic.”

She added that working with brokers was a partnership and that both sides had promises to keep: “This works in trading. I will not tell you I don’t work with brokers or I don’t do rental because I will be taking a position that is not mine. 

“I want my dealers to be successful in volume, quality and profit. This is if you want my only dogma and if they work with brokers because they’re used to it and they see opportunity in there, as long as they are insisting on retail and they are good in corporate sales, why not?”

Agency switch delayed

All eight of the Stellantis brands, including the commercial vehicle operations, will move to agency agreements, but not until “late 2026” at the earliest, said Maria Grazia.

Stellantis had originally planned to move LCVs, Alfa Romeo and DS to agency in 2023, but has delayed this twice; once to 1 January 2024 and then to mid-2024. Now, she plans to “stabilise, grow and stabilise again to grow” the business before changing the retail model.Steve Young

Having learnt from Stellantis’ agency test markets of Belgium, Austria and the Netherlands, as well as monitoring what Mercedes is doing in the UK, Maria Grazia will now bring retailers on-board through consultation and will use consulting business ICDP led by Steve Young (left) as an “independent third party” to run the negotiations and work out a system that works for both the national sales company and the network.

“You need all the voices around the table because once you realise that opposition to it is not just because opponents want to oppose - by principle - but because they have arguments. The sooner you face these arguments the better.”

While the details have yet to be set, Maria Grazia said the agreement would be true agency rather than non-genuine and that vehicle pricing would be set by the manufacturer yet the transaction would be between the retailer and the customer, rather than between the customer and the manufacturer. And that Stellantis would invoice the retailer. She added that both the retailer and the NSC would own the customer data.

While operating an agency agreement this way is unusual, it is legally possible. 

One of the main reasons for the delay to the agency switch-on, according to Maria Grazia, was the “capital intensive” nature of the retail model, referring to taking on the costs traditionally associated with the retailer.

Stellantis and the ZEV Mandate

With the 22% EV new car target for 2024, Stellantis does not intend to either buy Zero Emission (ZEV) Mandate credits from rival manufacturers or pay any fines to the government.

Maria Grazia said she will hit a mix of around 20% battery electric vehicles in 2024. The figure is lower than the 22% due to a low CO2 average that also impacts the target.

Maria Grazia Davino Stellantis UK group MD
Maria Grazia: 20% EVs in 2024

She aims to reach this figure by targeting retailers “in a very rewarding manner” on EV registrations adding that Stellantis would not have a problem with the supply of EVs. 

She said her plan to hit the correct EV mix started in the last quarter of 2023 and would “connect” to 2024. 

Maria Grazia denied that putting targets on EV registrations when retail demand for EVs is not as strong as that in fleet will lead to either a decline in customer satisfaction or vehicles being mis-sold: “You can’t force the customer to buy. So my straight answer is ‘no’. We cannot compromise the customer experience by forcing the customer to do something they don’t want to do. It’s counterproductive. I don’t think dealers would even do that.”

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