Specification mistakes affect up to 3% of orders, according to research by Epyx, and new findings suggest this could be rising.
Errors such as the wrong body colour or style of alloy wheel, or even completely the wrong model, are caused by the human factor in the ordering process, which sometimes sees instructions incorrectly keyed into a system or faxes completed by hand with the wrong information.
Epyx managing director Greg Connell said: 'This is a major cost that goes unnoticed in even some of the largest contract hire companies. If you are lucky the customer will accept a vehicle in the wrong colour or with an incorrect extra, providing you make a goodwill gesture.
'At the other end of the scale the customer can refuse to accept the vehicle. You then have an unwanted car that needs to be disposed of, and there is also the cost of providing a hire car while the customer's correct order is processed by the factory and that will probably take a minimum of four weeks.'
Epyx's new findings show that the increasing complexity of options lists on many new models compounds the problem.
Connell said: 'This is especially true on user-chooser fleets where an employee will understandably attempt to squeeze every last possible option out of their monthly allowance. This leads to some very complicated vehicle orders being placed.'
Epyx believes its web-based 1Link car ordering system offers dealers, contract hire companies and fleet customers the opportunity to process orders while minimising the opportunity for errors.
However, Connell admitted that 1Link was not a guarantee against incorrect orders. He said: 'We cannot guarantee that incorrect orders will not happen with 1Link. But the fact that re-keying of information is avoided, as is the need to generate fresh paperwork at every stage of the order, means that the error rate will be much lower than using traditional methods.'