19 Jan 15

Jean-Laurent Paris, DEKRA: “Sell used cars to Generation Y by turning them into fans”

DEKRA Automotive Solutions (DAS) is set to take a great leap forward: “We're currently active in 15 countries, and we'll expand to 20 by 2018,” says Jean-Laurent Paris, the company's Managing Director. Which means DAS will export its visionary business approach to a bunch of new markets. Only last November, Mr. Paris proclaimed at the Remarketing Forum in Hamburg: “We have to turn our customers into fans!”

As the used-car management specialist within the DEKRA Group, DAS is but one of the 12 service lines of the Stuttgart-based multinational, which has a presence in 52 countries, employs 31,000 people and generates €2.3 billion in revenue. For its part, DAS 'only' has 1,000 employees. What sets it apart is its vision for the future, both in terms of customer relationships and growth ambitions.

Remind us why you want to turn your customers into fans.

Jean-Laurent Paris: We face a generational shift. This year, Generation Y – born between 1980 and 1995 – will make up 40% of Europe's workforce, and 50% worldwide. These are the people that buy used cars. The average age of the new car buyer is 52.

This generation grew up with the Internet. User-driven mobility solutions like Uber were built by and for them. With their multi-channel approach to information, they know more and expect better than ever before.

At the same time, they are less interested in price, and more in value: they want to be part of a community, be fans rather than customers. That's what I call the Starbucks approach. To appeal to Generation Y, we need to enable interaction, and provide rewards.

So how would an OEM with a used-car programme go about doing that, for example?

Jean-Laurent Paris: Right now, the remarketing industry hasn't caught up yet. A used-car programme can be so beneficial for an OEM: customers who feel they've been given a good deal will be back a few years down the road, for another used car – or perhaps a new one.

One example I love are the Dacia Picnics, annual events organised by the OEM for its clients, reinforcing the sense of community between them. Another one is vehicle maintenance. That's a great way to maintain a relationship with your customer. This can be done with text messaging, sending out reminder videos, and other interactive tools.

Finally, tell us a bit more about your growth ambitions for the future.

Jean-Laurent Paris: The used-car management we do for OEMs, lease companies and dealer groups is mainly car-focused. We recently added a label specifically for trucks, which is a content-wise expansion.

Geographically, we are present throughout the entirety of Central and Western Europe, with the exception of Ireland, and outside Europe we have presences in the US, Canada, Brazil and China – markets of which we expect a great deal. I can't tell you yet which new markets we'll be entering, so watch this space!

But I can tell you how we will be doing this. One option is conquest – buying up relevant companies in strategic markets, like we did with RCI Safety in the US, Plurel in the Netherlands and TTL Automotive in the UK. The other is simply to grow organically: to observe the markets, and act on opportunities as they arise.

Authored by: Frank Jacobs