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Dealers disappoint fleets

Managers running the UK’s company car fleets feel let down by franchised dealers.

Sewells’ annual survey of fleet operators, now in its eighth year, first noted this disenchantment with dealer networks in 2003. Since then there has been a fall in satisfaction.

This year the latest Sewells’ Fleet Operator Attitude Survey collected data from 573 fleet managers enabling analysis of dealer networks for 20 vehicle manufacturers.

The fleets ranged in size from just over 25 cars to more than 1,000 vehicles. Fleet managers were asked questions about a comprehensive range of topics including buying factors, vehicle acquisition and servicing. Using postal questionnaires and in-depth telephone interviews, the survey built up a complete and independent assessment of fleet managers’ views.

The survey also asked questions about current issues including the ending of the three per cent company car tax discount for Euro IV diesels and use of the internet.

Fleet managers were asked 37 detailed satisfaction questions about every aspect of their relationship with franchised dealers. The results showed that fleet managers most valued the support which dealers give to their company car users after the vehicle delivery. Aftersales service was a crucial consideration affecting overall satisfaction with franchised dealers. Fleet managers attached much less importance to traditional dealer strengths in sales, such as acquisition advice and product knowledge.

Not every vehicle manufacturer saw fleet managers’ satisfaction with its franchise network fall with improvements for three franchises between 2005 and 2006. However, the survey also asked respondents about their satisfaction with vehicle manufacturers. As for dealers there was a fall in the average, but the satisfaction in the case of six vehicle manufacturers improved 2005/2006.

Now that new car retail sales have been in decline for the past three years, the fleet market has become more important than ever. Indeed some industry observers even suggest that the sector could already be taking over 60% of the total new car market. If dealers are going to earn their slice of this changing market then they must reverse the decline in satisfaction.

Only 34% of respondents and interviewees utilised the internet to help manage their fleets. Amongst these individuals, the most popular use of the internet was looking up product and performance information. They also found the internet a useful tool in wading through the mass of information about financial aspects of purchasing and running a vehicle fleet. However, the one area of fleet operations that attracted little interest was booking services online.

Trend in overall satisfaction rating of dealers

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