With the SMMT predicting a fall in registrations of 6%-7% in 2017, many manufacturers are encouraging their dealer partners to do more business in the fleet sector.
Up to the end of September, fleet sales were up 5.4% year-on-year to 1,082,718, according to the SMMT. By comparison, private sales for the same period were near-flat (up 0.4%) at 983,123.
JCT600 is one business that has been quick to shape its fleet-funding model and staff training to take advantage of the trend.
Neill Richards, fleet sales director for JCT600, said its ‘fleet hubs’ work in partnership with fleet funders, either on a nominated or preferred status, to take advantage of the financial terms offered by “numerous funders”.
He said: “Our broker teams and our local business development managers not only have access to the manufacturer deals, but also to other funders’ quotation systems, enabling us to take advantage of the stronger support levels or higher residuals within the fleet sector. That way, we stay competitive.”
Wessex Garages’ group fleet/business centre manager, Andy Provis, said: “We pride ourselves on offering competitive contract hire rates across all franchises through various funding streams and competitive finance rates on HP and finance leases.
“We also have strong links to broaden relationships and glean advice from various asset funding partners.”
This year’s FN50 – an analysis of the UK’s top fleet providers by Fleet News – shows dealer groups are sharing the spoils with manufacturers.
BMW-owned Alphabet is third-placed, with an RV risk fleet of 140,460 vehicles, Volkswagen Group Leasing is sixth, with 101,037, and Mercedes-Benz Financial Services is 11th, with 39,287.
Of the retailers, Arnold Clark Finance is in eighth place, with an RV risk fleet of 52,606 vehicles, with Inchcape Fleet Solutions just outside the top 10 in 11th place, with 26,030. JCT600 Vehicle Leasing Solutions is 24th, with 6,591 vehicles.
Earlier this year, Santander Consumer Finance expanded into the fleet sector through its existing dealer and broker intermediaries, potentially equipping more retailers to trade in the fleet sector. It will distribute its finance products through more than 3,500 independent and franchised motor dealers.
It would not comment on its market share aspirations, but commercial director, Stewart Grant, clearly sees the provision of fleet funding to retailers as a growing market.
Dealer groups, such as TrustFord, are developing PDI centres to manage the remote preparation of fleet vehicles and process them at the end of a lease or hire period.
Steve Hood, chief executive and chairman of TrustFord, said his national fleet team will soon start making use of a new 21-acre facility at Long Marston, near Stratford-upon-Avon, to process 40,000 fleet vehicles a year.
However, Hood said he was in no doubt that “specialist business sales training” at dealer level was at the heart of a successful fleet operation.
The British Vehicle Renting and Leasing Association (BVRLA) and Institute of the Motor Industry (IMI) both offer specialist fleet sales training and qualifications.
The BVRLA’s ‘Introduction to the Vehicle Fleet Industry’ takes groups of six at a price of £225 per head. A ‘Professional Fleet Consultant Development Programme’ is tailored to sales executives and managers and is priced at £1,700 per head.
Among the topics covered are: differentiating lease and purchase options; contract hire benefits; whole life costs; buyer considerations and comparisons; and the critical role of service in client retention.
Provis said “top quality training is essential”. He added: “We train staff so that all business specialist sales executives are able to give professional advice on the right finance package.
“They all also have a good knowledge of the tax implications surrounding business/fleet vehicles. They are able to offer tax-efficient and post-Budget advice, which is a key part in the decision-making process for fleet customers.”
Richards said having FCA-compliant, fully accredited fleet sales specialists is a must, and that JCT600 employs a team of brand ambassadors and specialists at each of its fleet hubs: “This is often the only ‘touch point’ the end user will experience once the company vehicle has been chosen.”