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The big picture: Survey reveals issue on fleet

Fleet operators have used the latest Sewells fleet survey to fire a broadside at franchised dealers and manufacturers for poor service on sales and aftersales.

It’s got some carmakers hot under the collar – although retailers still get a 66.7 satisfaction rating (down from 76 a year earlier).

This issue raised its head two years ago when AM and Fleet News launched respective campaigns calling for improved communications between these two parts of the industry. It seems that little has happened in the meantime to improve relationships.

Part of the problem centres on some dealers’ perception of fleet business as low margin, while fleet drivers are often people who come to their business to test drive cars but buy centrally.

Exacerbating the situation are those carmakers who supply cars to banks and large corporate customers at higher discounts than dealers receive – this hits residual values and, according to dealers, many cars return to the market within months, undercutting their showroom prices. It’s a nice earner for these companies.

Manufacturers are putting growing emphasis on the fleet market. Audi has restructured its fleet department; Kia, Seat and Hyundai have stated their ambitions in the corporate sector; Peugeot and Fiat have softened their stance after withdrawing last year. As the fleet sector is the only part of the new car market not suffering huge slumps in demand, it’s an area that needs to be serviced properly.

But, fleets need to recognize that if they screw down their suppliers on price, they can only expect a second rate service. This is really important for aftersales. It’s about a fair price for a fair level of professionalism and service.

And carmakers need to better support their retailers by incentivizing fleet test bookings and offering fairer discounts – fleets should not be able to undercut dealers on price.

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