Fleet News

Managing your company cars: Fast-fits

By Peter Lambert, sales director, Kwik-Fit Fleet - An extract from the Managing your Company Cars book edited by Colin Tourick and produced in association with Fleet News

Please tell us about yourself and your business

I joined Kwik-Fit Fleet as Sales Director in August 2010 at a period in motoring history time when the term fast-fit is becoming a misnomer for such businesses.

While fast-fit organisations such as Kwik-Fit may have become a fixture of the High Street selling tyres, batteries and exhausts, today the company has an extensive range of services designed to meet the needs of the retail and fleet motorist.

With its one stop shop approach why would you choose to go anywhere else?

Arguably the only product that the company does not sell is vehicles themselves – as the menu of services now available embraces virtually every conceivable requirement to keep cars and vans on the road.

With the 21st century‘s ‘re-invention’ of the traditional fast-fit to both rival and take on franchised dealers and independent garages, my 25 years in the motor industry gives me a crucial insight into how the competition at both a manufacturer and dealer level think and operate.

During my career I have held a variety of roles with motor manufacturers Ford, Toyota and DaimlerChrysler.

At DaimlerChrysler I was sales and marketing director for Mercedes-Benz Vans and managing director of Chrysler UK.

More recently I was managing director for Rossetts Commercials, the Mercedes-Benz commercial vehicle dealer for Sussex and Surrey.

Of course, Kwik-Fit’s fleet offering remains committed to the foundations of the fast-fit business – tyres, exhausts and batteries – but today’s offering includes vehicle servicing and MOTs, tyre safety checks, a Business Drive Card, brake checks and replacement, oil and filter changes, air conditioning recharging and glass repair to name just a few.

Add in the sophistication of being able to book on-line, a 24-hour support service and a nationwide network of 670 centres, open seven days a week and a mobile fleet; Kwik-Fit Fleet truly is a 24/7 365 days a year motoring business.

Although Kwik-Fit is the UK’s largest independent fast-fit company and the established fast-fit activities of tyre, exhaust and battery supply remain the core part of the company’s product range, the business is expanding into other areas.

Historically, Kwik-Fit has been the leader of the fast-fit market and in introducing a wider range of services – most recently manufacturer scheduled servicing, maintenance and repair work and MOTs – our competitors are following to a greater or lesser extent.

However, given Kwik-Fit independence and the fact that its main rivals are typically owned by tyre companies, it remains to be seen how great their appetite for change is.

That is why I don’t simply view our competitors as being other fast-fit providers and why I want to move the image and reputation of Kwik-Fit Fleet in the minds of fleet customers and drivers to offering a menu of services across a wide range of products and motoring solutions.

What are the services available from fast-fits today?

Fast-fit is maybe a term that is engraved in motoring history, signalling the quick and efficient repair and replacement of certain vehicle parts – tyres, exhausts and batteries.

But today’s fast-fit delivers so much more by way of vehicle-related products and services that I am loath to use the phrase.

For example, at Kwik-Fit Fleet, we are aiming to firmly establish the organisation as a supplier of a wide range of services in the hearts and minds of fleet operators and company car and van drivers and not simply be viewed as a fast-fit provider.

Cost management has always been a key focus for fleet operators and there is no doubt that by using fast-fits for servicing, MOT and other mechanical work, they can save money when compared with the franchised sector.

With a loosening of the European Union regulations governing the relationship between vehicle manufacturers and the independent sector, vehicle servicing and MOT work is the single largest growth area for organisations that used to be known as ‘fast-fits’.

For example, Kwik-Fit can service and maintain virtually any car or van up to 3.5t in accordance with the manufacturers’ servicing schedules, giving peace of mind to the contract hire companies as well as outright purchase fleets that the warranty cover will not be invalidated and the stamp in the log book will not hurt residual values.

Put simply, today’s ‘fast-fits’ are competing head-to-head across the aftermarket arena with franchised dealers, independent garages and others.

Today’s services from so-called ‘fast-fits’ therefore include:

  • Tyre repair and replacement
  • Exhausts
  • Batteries
  • Brake repair and replacement
  • All-makes vehicle servicing
  • MOT
  • Manufacturer scheduled servicing
  • Oil and filter changes
  • Air conditioning recharging
  • Glass repair
  • Winter safety checks on key components
  • Tyre safety inspections at the driver’s location of choice – often company car parks and depots

To that list can be added a number of specialist services for the corporate market, but more of those later.

If a fast-fit carries out servicing and maintenance on a vehicle, does that cause any problems with the manufacturer’s warranty?

In short the answer is ‘absolutely not’. But let me explain how the relaxation of the European Union’s so-called Block Exemption regulations opened the door for non-franchised service agents to break into the sector and how the product offering has developed.

The rule changes came into force at a time when motor manufacturers were typically increasing service intervals on vehicles to, in some cases, 20,000 miles.

That trend did not take account of the need for drivers to change friction items such as brakes and oil between major services, and the door was opened for the fast-fit sector to expand its product offering away from tyres, batteries and exhausts.

At Kwik-Fit, the capability to undertake the majority of routine service work such as oil changes, brake pads/discs and fluid checks was quickly added to our product portfolio.

Demand ultimately led to the company investing in fully-trained mechanics and purchasing specialist equipment to offer comprehensive vehicle services and MOTs across all makes and models.

All servicing and MOT centres are equipped with computer software that enables technicians to download the manufacturer’s service schedule on a model-by-model basis.

The cost of each service is individually calculated by adding together ICME service time, hourly labour rates and spare part prices.
 

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