By Chris Crow head of network and technical services at Fleet Assist
The long-standing and simplistic focus on vehicle repair costs in isolation is becoming increasingly outmoded.
Vehicle technology and the arrival of the ‘connected car’ is moving forward at an unprecedented rate and, allied to other major fleet operator considerations, the importance of having a multi-channel aftersales network in place is business-critical.
Many OEMs are considering how they can best support fleet service, maintenance and repair (SMR) activity through ‘connected car’ technologies but, due to the competing needs of drivers, fleet operators, vehicle manufacturers themselves and data protection regulations, they will not deliver a silver bullet solution.
Instead, fleet operators must look to develop an effective repairer network focusing on five key strands.
Geographical coverage needs to be suitable to ensure a company car or van does not have to travel too far for a service or repair.
It is also important to ensure the ‘network’ has sufficient capacity so booking lead times are sensible, taking account of work schedules.
Fleet operators must focus on all costs when negotiating garage terms. They have historically focused on garage labour rates when considering vehicle repair costs. However, replacement parts and fluids can account for up to 50% of overall repair costs.
Consideration should also be given to the use of OEM-equivalent parts when looking for cost-effective solutions.
Implementing clear and effective work direction policies, identifying vehicle and driver needs and then directing models into the most cost-effective repairer taking into account the SMR work required, make/model, age and mileage, will enable fleet operators to realise repair cost savings.
As technology evolves so do the requirements of an aftersales network and how it delivers solutions to ensure vehicle downtime is kept to a minimum. Garages will, therefore, need to regularly update their diagnostic equipment and retrain technicians.
Consequently, it is vital fleet operators, particularly when selecting independent garages, not only capture their existing SMR capabilities but update regularly the information they hold, as repairers invest in new equipment and staff training.
Capturing the vehicle SMR work required at an early stage enables fleets to proactively manage a vehicle booking and increase penetration into their preferred garage network, taking advantage of the most cost-effective repairers.
Proactively managing the garage network that a fleet operator uses – and a contract hire and leasing company works with – is essential to effective and efficient vehicle operations and cost-control. A one-size fits all solution is no longer relevant.