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Data protection issue leaves fleet operators feeling disconnected

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Fleet managers are calling for a resolution to the data issue between leasing companies and manufacturers after a number of company car drivers have been left unable to access connected car services.

The majority of leasing companies, who are the vehicle owners, have refused to sign up to the terms and conditions of the latest connected services, such as Mercedes-Benz Connect Me and Vauxhall OnStar services, because they are concerned about data protection and the use of information which could be classed as personal in light of the forthcoming EU data protection rules.

They are also apprehensive about terms that allow manufacturers to contact drivers to arrange maintenance and repair, which could result in them losing control over costs.

However, this has meant manufacturers have not switched on services, annoying drivers who were expecting full access on new models, for example to lock doors, locate the car and check fuel levels via smartphone apps.

Nick Hardy, director at Ogilvie Fleet, said: “It’s wholly incorrect to impart information to any organisation that asks for it. So if a manufacturer says ‘give me all your drivers’ details for the cars’ we are going to say ‘no’. It is an absolute categoric ‘no, you’re not having it’.”

Ogilvie initially refused to sign an agreement with Mercedes-Benz but has since reached a verbal agreement so drivers do now have access to the connected services.

Jim Hannah, Ogilvie operations director, said the service, maintenance and repair (SMR) related data would now come to Ogilvie but added that “we have not finalised all of this”.

Ogilvie uses franchised dealers for servicing but other leasing companies that use independent garages also fear losing control of SMR.

Mark Connor, operations director at Zenith, said: “One of the big concerns is the fact that manufacturers have access to information around when a vehicle needs servicing, warning light information. That presents a risk because it takes it out of our control and impacts on the contractual relationship that we have with our corporate clients.”

Connor said Zenith was in talks with manufacturers to get access to the vehicle data, but added that they were “moving at different rates” when it came to data collection via connected services. Some, such as BMW, have already taken action (see below).

Andy Hartley, commercial director at Lex Autolease, believes there are benefits to connected technology but said it needed to be deployed correctly.

“At present, the offering from most manufacturers is aimed at retail customers, and doesn’t necessarily cater for a three-party relationship where a leasing or fleet provider may be the owner of the vehicle, the mid-point between manufacturer and driver,” he said.

The leasing companies’ stance has left some company car drivers taking delivery of new vehicles and then discovering they are not able to turn on the connected services. However, fleets are sympathetic to the leasing companies’ concerns.

Paul Tate, commodity manager at Siemens, said: “We’re managing to satisfy any issues raised to us by pointing out that at the moment we don’t have an agreement in place on what exactly the material will be used for and they go away a bit disgruntled but they accept that we only have their best interests at heart.”

He added: “This isn’t going away. If anything, there is going to be more and more data transmitted from cars. It needs putting to bed. There need to be clearly defined rules in place on exactly what this data is used for.”

Meanwhile, one Fleet200 fleet, which operates a large number of Mercedes-Benz cars, raised another concern.

“The more sensitive issue for us is all this data around the driver is being sent to computer servers overseas and we’ve no control over how that data is going to be stored and used for the future,” said the fleet manager.

Additional issues can arise if the company car driver assumes the subscription fee (if applicable) is included in the lease and it isn’t, or if the service is free for six months but then a fee applies.

Fleet association ACFO believes robust controls need to be put in place to protect fleets and their drivers.

Caroline Sandall, ACFO deputy chairman, said: “There are aspects of the service that would be of benefit to drivers but equally could be risky for fleet managers; we could start to see leakage outside of agreed parameters for servicing and maintenance.

“That is a worry. We can’t be losing any control over any of our costs because we’re allowing increased flexibility.

“That is not going to happen so it’s how we find that happy medium between drivers being able to utilise services but in a controlled way.”

Paul Adler, fleet marketing manager at Vauxhall, stressed that fleets which have signed up to OnStar are seeing benefits, such as stolen vehicle recovery and data on the car’s mpg and lifetime mileage.

“The driver, assuming they have signed up as well, separately, through pushing the blue OnStar button, will also get an email if that’s what they would like with those same details on the car,” he said.

However, Vauxhall “won’t be sending the driver to a different dealer that the owner of the vehicle wants to use”, said Adler.

“What we’re trying to do is make sure all the processes are totally robust so it falls in with leasing company service level agreements (SLAs),” he added.

“We’re not in disagreement with the leasing companies at all. We’re absolutely trying to work with them so they continue to have their control over their processes and the SLAs they want with servicing, with breakdown, with glass, with tyres.”

To resolve the situation, Adler believes that “we have to get to a scenario where the OnStar T&Cs are acceptable to the leasing industry”.

Leasing companies hope that a resolution can be reached through the British Vehicle Rental and Leasing Association (BVRLA). It has been working with members on a “data principles document” which sets out best practice principles covering manufacturer collection and use of data from vehicles owned or managed by leasing companies.

Mercedes-Benz declined to comment when contacted by Fleet News.

‘Driver has the choice’, says Jaguar Land Rover

Jaguar Land Rover is in talks with leasing companies over the data created by its InControl connected system, but says that at present “the driver has the choice to turn it on”.

Jon Wackett, general manager for fleet and business Jaguar Land Rover (JLR), added: “We are engaging substantially with the leasing companies, because we recognise their concerns, to make sure that we have an amicable, positive way to address those concerns.”

Jeremy Hicks, managing director of JLR, said the service was about providing useful technology to drivers. “It’s not about having the relationship with that driver, in terms of wanting to take them away,” he said.

Hicks said ongoing talks with leasing companies have been “very good”. But he said it was important drivers “can get the best benefit they can from the car”.

BMW reaches agreement  with leasing companies

BMW has reached a data sharing agreement with leasing companies, following a successful pilot.

Adam Harley, national leasing manager at BMW  UK, said: “From Q3, data will be available containing information on all current live vehicles to support  the leasing company in proactively managing their assets from a service, maintenance and repair perspective.”

The company car driver will be able to use the BMW ConnectedDrive service without receiving service alerts, which “removes the concerns regarding use of vehicle data to divert service and repair work to non-approved outlets”, according to Harley.

BMW will continue to receive the service notifications which are then passed onto the leasing company or its nominated service partner.




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