Fleet News

Rover takes the bull by the horns

JUST a year has passed since Rover was sold by BMW to the Phoenix Consortium headed by John Towers and it has been interesting to observe the events of those 12 months. Many thought the company wouldn't survive, but it has. And, although completely new product is some way off, the announcement of an all-new platform strategy is imminent and the noises coming out of Longbridge are positive.

But it is on the used car side that the new management has really taken the bull by the horns. This time two years ago it was reported that over 30,000 used cars in stock were creating huge financial and logistical problems for Rover. They simply had too many used cars from various sources - not just their own vehicles. But today it is a different story with less than 3,000 used cars in stock which, in a fleet manufacturer's terms, is very low. Also, careful management of new cars going on to fleets will ensure there will be no more dull, under-specced cars ending up as undesirable used stock. This is good news for the fleet industry, as working in harmony with Rover will help ensure stable used prices.

Meanwhile, many dealers are noticing an increase in the number of customers who are considering opting out of company car schemes. Employees are spending weekends doing the showroom runs in an effort to find their way around the complicated rules and regulations, but more importantly, to save money. How many of these shoppers actually opt out is unknown by dealers.

However, I was speaking to a fleet manager last week who said that a year ago only 10% of cars used for business were employees' own. This has now risen to 40%, creating many problems for the transport department. Checking to make sure that all privately owned vehicles are in a serviceable condition, have current MoTs and are insured for business use is almost impossible. It is felt throughout the trade that users who opt out are generally buying nearly new cars, as opposed to their companies buying new cars. The prestige end of the market is likely to suffer if more and more people go down the owning route.

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