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Dealers blamed for delaying growth of electronic trading

Attempts by fleets and leasing companies to save millions of pounds in administrative efficiencies are being hampered by car dealers, a leading industry figure is claiming.

John Lewis, director-general of the British Vehicle Rental and Leasing Association, said dealers were failing to invest in the technology that would facilitate electronic trading systems.

These systems firstly allow leasing companies to order vehicles without the use of faxes, or retyping information, and secondly offer automatic authorisation facilities that allow dealers to carry out work without lengthy phone calls to fleet maintenance departments to seek pre-work approval.

"Companies are using the internet, but not for full e-commerce," said Mr Lewis.

Speaking at last week's open day of FleetNet (the national body fighting to create common standards for e-commerce in the fleet industry), he said: "There is acceptance among senior figures in the industry and they are now championing use of technology.

"The speed of the technology is not the problem, nor are the contract hire companies. The problem lies with the suppliers. They are the ones we have to work on for this to move forward.

"Members of the BVRLA are ready, but I think the dealers are lagging behind. This is a wake-up call. We need to drive the process forward to get to true e-commerce and everyone must be on board."

Mr Lewis said dealerships should see introducing e-commerce as a key part of their business plans, and is organising head-to-head talks with the Retail Motor Industry Federation.

The RMI has welcomed the opportunity for discussions, but dismisses claims that dealerships are to blame for difficulty in launching industry wide e-commerce services.

Alan Pulham, franchised dealer director of the RMI, said: "It is difficult, because dealerships are waiting for market forces to prevail. It is easy saying we need to go forward, but we need a clear pathway first."

And at fleet e-commerce specialist Epyx, managing director Greg Connell said: "Dealerships are focused on their businesses, but they are very much led by customers themselves. You can't blame one side of industry. The whole market has to join forces to make it work." (September 27, 2001)

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