Fleet News

Lease service at risk from block exemption

CHANGES to block exemption could hamper major leasing company initiatives to improve fleet service levels - and put driver safety at risk.

The European Commission recently published new proposals that will change the distribution route of car sales to fleets, potentially reducing the price of new cars and making it easier for fleets to source cars from foreign dealers.

The changes, to be implemented on October 1, also propose splitting sales and servicing, allowing sales-only dealerships to sub-contract servicing to an open market of potential suppliers who meet manufacturer standards.

The proposals have led to fears of a proliferation of service outlets with no quality control from manufacturers.

Colin Thornton, managing director of customer service at LloydsTSB autolease, said: 'We rely on service outlets to be the face of our business, including the perceived quality of our service.'

Paul Everitt, head of policy and economics at the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders, told delegates at a Leasing Life conference (held in association with the British Vehicle Rental and Leasing Association): 'There have already been concerns about the quality of servicing in the UK offered to consumers and if you increase the number of outlets, then it could be more difficult to ensure quality.

'Furthermore our outlets that are not giving good service will each have the manufacturer's brand name over their door.'

Everitt also warned the changes could provoke an initial explosion in service outlets that could quickly be followed by consolidation that meant large swathes of the country outside cities and towns did not have service cover for particular models.

David Evans, chief executive of the Retail Motor Industry Federation, added: 'We do think the European Commission has lost its way.'

But in contrast to the SMMT's prediction, he said dealerships would be unlikely to oursource servicing because it is such a profitable area.

He said: 'Customer safety is a serious issue over quality of repairs and there are legal issues. Cars are complex machines and there are margins for error. An expanded maintenance network could damage the effectiveness of the recall process.'

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