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Ford backs retailers’ call

Ford Motor Company, the UK market sales leader (see page 19), is trying to achieve a national standard for aftersales work on its company car fleet and leasing vehicles. The company is supporting the objectives of AM’s Fair Fleet Campaign which is striving to improve understanding between its dealers and business car operators and users.

Kevin Griffin, director of fleet operations, Ford of Britain, agrees there is room for improvement and believes the company’s franchised network is capable of playing its part.

“Our dealers are an integral part of Ford’s strength as a provider of fleet cars,” says Griffin. “We have a field team talking to fleets each day, so we know their needs and also the issues. We want to make sure large fleet operators and smaller local fleet car providers get the aftersales service they require.”

AM is backing the call by retailers for a Fair Fleet Campaign in response to criticism by fleet operators through the pages of sister magazine Fleet News.

John Cooper, customer aftersales division director at Ford of Britain, says the manufacturer is focusing on achieving a national standard for fleet car servicing. Satisfaction indices from Ford fleet customers indicate a 73% approval rate of its servicing standards, he adds.

“We would like it to be higher but there are always going to be complaints,” he says. “A fleet operator can demand immediate work – at a discount – when our dealer has booked retail work in two weeks in advance. So it’s not hard to figure why some local fleet operators will be left believing they have had bad service.

“We monitor this closely and have seen no evidence of an increase in dissatisfaction.” Cooper says Ford will continue to rely on its dealers to provide aftersales service for its cars. There had been no great rush from independent companies to set up repair/aftersales operations following the most recent revisions to block exemption.

“They have considered the investment needed and don’t like the look of it,” says Cooper. “We have a scale of aftersales charge bands for our dealers, graded from the north of Scotland to London to reflect different levels of cost throughout the country. Dealers have to agree to charge that for fleet work and about 80% of Ford fleet cars go through it.”

Fleet orders and loyalty are hugely important to Ford. Last year Vauxhall stole Ford’s business sales crown but the blue oval badge is hitting back this year.

In 2003, Ford supplied 213,947 units to fleets (down 3.3%), while Vauxhall achieved 221,806 (up 3.5%). At the end of June, Vauxhall was still in the lead with 119,893 fleet registrations, just ahead of Ford’s 117,254. June’s best selling fleet car was the Ford Focus – 9,813 units. Vauxhall Corsa was in second place with 6,403 sales.

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