The trend towards outsourcing instead of having a dedicated fleet manager is a “retrograde step”, according to Peter Cakebread, managing director of Marshall Leasing, and recently appointed chairman of the BVRLA.
“I do believe – particularly if you’ve got a reasonable size of fleet – having a fleet manager is a good investment,” he says. “The fleet manager will make sure that you get good value from your providers.
“I think it’s difficult to replicate that by outsourcing despite the fact a number of people have and despite the fact we perform that service to a number of our clients. I still personally believe in fleet managers.”
But what if the company has someone managing the relationship with the outsourced provider to keep it on its toes?
“There needs to be an interface,” Cakebread agrees. “The problem is when the individual is not fully cognisant of what it going on. The interface might not work as efficiently as it would otherwise.”
During the 23 years that Cakebread has worked in leasing he has found it is no longer just the finance and HR departments taking an interest in the fleet.
“We’re talking to a far broader range of people,” he says. “There is an increase in fleet being dealt with by the procurement operation and they will tend to be price driven.”
The pressure to cut costs is also meaning that fleets are continuing to shrink.
“Companies are looking at every layer of cost and if it’s not required they are taking it out,” says Cakebread.
From a leasing company’s perspective that means it has to “continually canvass new business”.
“We find that to standstill you have to grow your customer base,” Cakebread says.
Marshall Leasing targets fleets of 25 to 1,000 vehicles and has a number of customers in the 75-200 vehicle range. Its customer base is almost entirely private sector.
“Inevitably you end up with fleets that are smaller than 25 vehicles, and some of those are very valued clients, but effectively we are going for a broader range,” Cakebread says.
“We are currently growing at an annualised rate of 10% and that’s in line with our experience over the past three to four years and is where we expect and want to be.”
He wouldn’t rule out acquisition opportunities.
Marshall Leasing acquired Gates Contract Hire five years ago and if a similar opportunity came up Cakebread would be interested.
But he is determined that growth must not come at the expense of customer service.