Today, Fleet NewsNet and Fleet News begins the annual search for the very best cars, vans, manufacturer fleet departments and supply companies, with the launch of the 2004 Fleet News Awards.
These annual industry 'Oscars' recognise the strongest, highest quality vehicles, products, services and suppliers in the market, based on the opinions of an expert panel of judges.
Full details of our all-important search for the best fleet operators in the UK and in Europe will be revealed next month. But this week, fleet decision-makers are invited to play a key role in the finding the best service companies and manufacturers in the country.
We are asking Fleet NewsNet users to nominate their best fleet supply companies, best company cars and vans and best fleet manufacturer.
Nominations can be made by filling in the form accessed below.
Over the next month, we are asking Fleet NewsNet users to submit their nominations, which will then be used to draw up a shortlist for each category.
Votes received will be taken into account by the judges, but companies can also nominate themselves for all award categories this year.
Companies wishing to enter should complete the same voting forms, but make it clear they are self-nominating.
Shortlisted companies will then be invited to complete questionnaires relevant to the award for which they have been nominated before the end of the year. They will also be able to submit brief supporting material.
Then, an expert panel of judges will use this information and their own independent market knowledge to determine award winners.
A jury of 'hands-on' experts from throughout the industry is currently being prepared to examine the shortlist based on reader nominations.
Cars and vans will only be eligible if they were launched, on sale and in showrooms by October 31, 2003. Cars and vans launched after this date will not qualify for the 2004 Fleet News Awards.
The awards will be presented at the fleet 'night of the year' on Wednesday, March 17, 2004 at the Le Meridien Grosvenor House Hotel, Park Lane, London.
Six steps to winning a Fleet News award
1. Fleet NewsNet users vote for their favourite cars, vans, products, services and suppliers. Votes must be received by October 31, 2003
2. Supply companies nominate themselves for the relevant award categories. Nominations must be received by the end of October, 2003
3. Fleet News creates a shortlist for each category
4. Shortlisted supply companies receive a detailed questionnaire from Fleet News that must be filled in and returned to Fleet News with any supporting material by December
5. An expert panel of judges assesses the submitted entries and the shortlisted vehicles
6. The winners are presented with their awards at a glittering gala dinner on Wednesday March 17 at the Le Meridien Grosvenor House Hotel, Park Lane, London
Vehicle manufacturer awards
BEST SMALL CAR
This is the traditional supermini, a car judged to be suitable for local work by a junior field person or public sector employee. The winning car will provide a totally cost-conscious fleet solution for the fleet operator, while offering practical and desirable motoring for the driver.
BEST LOWER-MEDIUM CAR
Lower-medium cars are typically provided for field staff and, in some organisations, supervisors in the field. They may also represent the first genuine level of remuneration car, particularly with the trend towards vehicle downsizing by employees. This car must combine the elements of being operationally efficient, wholelife cost-competitive and desirable (even aspirational) for the driver. A comprehensive range of body styles, including an estate variant, and engines is crucial for success in this category.
BEST UPPER-MEDIUM CAR
This is the traditional family car, provided to more senior field staff or as a car for office-based managers who make regular field trips. Challenged from below by desirable and larger lower-medium cars, and from above by wholelife cost- competitive premium cars, this car must distinguish itself as operationally efficient, highly cost-effective and driver desirable/aspirational. A comprehensive range of body styles and engines is essential for success in this category.
BEST PREMIUM UPPER-MEDIUM CAR
This car is the favourite of middle to senior management and very much aimed at user-choosers. Nevertheless, value for money, a broad range and tax-efficiency all remain vitally important, as does extremely high driver appeal. This category can also include 4x4s that would provide a genuine alternative to other cars in this class.
BEST EXECUTIVE CAR
This is a highly aspirational car for senior board members, chief executives, business owners and partners in substantial professional practices. The car's image is crucial, so price and tax efficiency are possibly less important than in other categories, although in an age of business transparency, this car must still show itself to be competitive with its peers in terms of wholelife costs, specification and company car tax.
BEST LUXURY CAR
This is the ultimate car for the head of an organisation. Even here, however, the traditional 'money no object' mentality is now being qualified by tax-efficiency and environmental-friendliness so fuel economy, price and tax issues must be considered.
This new category recognises a growing section of the car industry, the sports utility vehicle (SUV), that has rocketed in size over the past few years. In most cases they offer four-wheel drive for off-road work, but must also offer good on-road performance, as that will be where they will spend most of their lives. Although they may have higher running costs, as a fleet proposition, these must be kept under control.
This category is for the very specific lower-medium car-based mini-MPVs. Seating and load flexibility, wholelife costs, driver appeal and a wide range of engines are all pre-requisites for the winner of this award.
This category covers the range of large 'people carriers' — whether five, six, seven or eight seats are involved. On fleets, these cars are typically available to user-choosers at middle and senior management level. Seating and load flexibility, wholelife costs, engine range, specification and tax-efficiency will all feature strongly as judging criteria.
BEST VAN UNDER 2.1 TONNES
A car-derived van or light medium van which will be judged on its payload, internal dimensions and practicality. Driver comfort and safety, security, durability, reliability and wholelife costs will also be taken into account.
BEST VAN 2.1 TONNES TO 2.8 TONNES
This category recognises the development of several new light panel vans that are becoming increasingly common on company fleets. The judges will be measuring payload, internal dimensions and load door opening capabilities, while also taking into account durability, reliability, security and wholelife costs alongside driver comfort and safety.
BEST VAN 2.8 TO 3.5 TONNES
This award will go to the best large van that can nonetheless be driven on a car licence. The van will be judged on payload, internal dimensions, door versatility and clear floor space/dimensions, alongside driver comfort and safety, security and cost of ownership. The vehicle's range and versatility will also be taken into account.
FLEET MANUFACTURER OF THE YEAR
This award recognises the best fleet sales and support team at a vehicle manufacturer. The judges will take into account the range and depth of the model range offered by the manufacturer (saloon/hatchback/estate variants and petrol/diesel availability). The judges will also be focusing closely on additional support services for both fleet customers and company car drivers, with particular attention paid to new initiatives introduced in 2003. The judges will also consider new vehicle pricing, CO2 data, projected residual values and wholelife costs, fleet/driver feedback, vehicle reliability, specification, driveability, servicing, warranty cover, aftersales fleet support, internet and e-commerce facilities.
Supply company awards
BEST DAILY RENTAL COMPANY
This award is for the short-term hire company judged to provide the most professional and cost-effective car and light van daily rental service to fleets.
Among the criteria judged will be price, flexibility and range of services, internet-friendliness from a customer perspective, range and quality of vehicles, the quality of information delivered to fleet operators for management control and strategic planning purposes and ease and security of bookings.
This new award examines the growing use of the internet in the everyday work of fleets. It will acknowledge the internet site that adds value and improves efficiency for fleet customers, is easy to navigate and manages to look good at the same time. The web-based facility must be useful and user-friendly for fleet operators and/or company car drivers and have been fully operational in 2003.
BEST FAST-FIT COMPANY
This award recognises the company that delivers the best fast-fit services to fleet customers and their company car and van drivers. Services included in this category would encompass vehicle servicing and maintenance, including tyre, exhaust and battery replacement. The judges will assess the range and quality of services offered (including online developments), authorisation processes, invoicing accuracy, staff training levels, convenience for drivers in using either branches or mobile services, and the overall excellence of service delivery.
BEST CONTRACT HIRE COMPANY
This award is for the contract hire and/or fleet management company judged to provide the best all-round customer service levels in terms of off-the-shelf products and specific tailored services, cost-effectiveness, client management information, internet-friendliness from a customer perspective, and all-round support for fleet customers and their company car drivers.
BEST RISK MANAGEMENT COMPANY
This award is for either a specialist risk or accident management company or a company (such as a leasing or driver training firm) which has put risk management at the heart of its product range. The judges are looking for a business which has developed and promoted solutions to help employers meet their health and safety and duty of care responsibilities towards their drivers.
BEST GLASS REPAIR/REPLACEMENT COMPANY
This award acknowledges the company deemed by the judges to offer the highest standards of service in the replacement of windscreens and side glass. Priority will be given to speed of response to client needs, the quality of the work conducted and the management of the authorisation and invoicing process.
BEST DISPOSAL/ REMARKETING COMPANY
This award will go to the company which combines excellent service levels to fleet customers with the delivery of maximum resale values. The judges will be looking for a creative remarketing approach that explores a variety of sale opportunities and helps fleets achieve optimum residual values for their vehicles, supporting disposal managers with high quality management information, market intelligence and advice.
BEST BREAKDOWN COMPANY
Vehicle reliability has dramatically improved in recent years, but mechanical breakdowns do still occur and driver safety and mobility remains a pressing problem. This award will recognise the roadside rescue and recovery company that delivers the best service both to corporate drivers and fleet customers. While the judges will look closely at companies' speed of response and roadside repair rates, they will also value additional services that have a fleet-specific focus.
This special award, voted for by the awards judges, will go to the company which has provided continuous outstanding service to the fleet industry. This service may involve the supply of goods and services, or the delivery of consultative expertise. External recognition of the company's qualities through national/international criteria will be considered. as will in-house training, recruitment and retention standards.