Major fleet funding organisations, along with large fleets, are reducing running costs by creating electronic links with providers of service and maintenance facilities. Instead of service centres having to ring for permission to carry out work on a car, electronic links reduce paperwork and also allow for automatic authorisation.
Customers requiring service, maintenance and repair work can access their approved repairer network through an online directory.
Advantages include the removal of the need for job coding and a massive reduction in the requirement for authorisation calls and paperwork. Fleets enjoying such benefits can see cuts in overheads by about 50%.
According to service provider epyx, the name behind 1Link, advanced features include online driver service booking and electronic authorisation and invoice processing – all available to any fleet customer with any type of internet access.
Greg Connell, the firm's managing director, said: 'The 1Link Service Network is all about using technology to reduce costs and increase customer service levels.
'Major fleets and service providers are already talking about possible savings running into hundreds of thousands of pounds.'
Among the most recent signings is Lloyds TSB autolease, which has a fleet of almost 160,000 vehicles under its management.
David Kershaw, operations director at Lloyds TSB autolease, said: 'There has been the potential for a product of this type to enter the fleet market for some time but the entrants to date have not really provided the impetus needed. Our belief is that 1Link Service Network is the product that will see fleet e-commerce really take off. We expect to make substantial savings in the processing of service and maintenance transactions across our entire fleet.'
There are 14 manufacturers committed to adopting the 1Link Service Network for their dealer networks. They include Ford, Audi, BMW, Citroen, Ford, Honda, Lexus, MINI, Volkswagen, Vauxhall, Peugeot, Toyota, LDV, Nissan and Renault. Meanwhile, from the service side of the industry, more than 5,000 outlets around the country have signed up to the network.
These service outlets range from prestige franchise dealers to small independent garages and include major dealer groups such as Dixons, Pendragon, Lookers, Reg Vardy, Bristol Street, Caffyns, Arnold Clark and Glenvarigill.
From the tyre and exhaust fast-fit side of the industry, ATS, Kwik-Fit and National Tyres and Autocare are all now members of the 1Link Service Network. Independent garages have also signed up, including some of the larger chains such as Nationwide Autocentres.
Connell added: 'To date, something like half of the UK's top 20 leasing companies, 14 motor manufacturers and 4,700 service outlets have signed up. The reaction from the service side of the industry has been very enthusiastic. They have been able to see immediately how it will cut their processing costs, increase customer service levels, and give them access to a much wider potential client base.'