The confidential Fleet Operator Attitude Survey, published by Fleet News' sister company Sewells Information and Research, discovered that fleets often feel let down by the dealer networks.
It said: 'Fleet managers often feel they are treated as second class citizens compared to private owners – with some fleets feeling much less valued customers, at the back of the queue, well behind allegedly more profitable private and business sector customers.'
The survey also discovered 'an apparent off-hand, not to say arrogant manner towards fleet customers by some specialised franchise dealerships'.
It added: 'Also it cannot be discounted that fleet managers' widespread dissatisfaction with the quality of aftersales service is influencing their feelings, and the way they express their views about dealers' sales operations.'
The survey concluded that better aftersales support was needed and that good support was a key factor for fleet managers in choosing vehicle brands.
There was widespread condemnation from fleets for aftersales support, with prime targets including long lead times for service and repairs, a decline in off-the-shelf availability for replacement parts, a worsening of dealers' ability to 'first time fix' problems and a lack of resources to deal with the increased number of vehicles on the road.
The fleet industry called on dealers to install dedicated fleet and business units. At present, 64% of fleets do business with fleet units at dealerships, while there was a perceived decline in the understanding of the fleet industry from dealers that did not have business units, the survey found.
The survey said: 'Fleets want manufacturers to understand what issues are important to them in running their fleet and conducting their own business effectively and profitably.
They want effective support from very competent people, who are available when they need them. And, they want a strong manufacturer fleet support and demonstrator programme.'
According to the survey, fleets have found that the availability and competence of senior management at dealers has slipped, with performance ratings back to 2002 levels, although the respondents claimed that there has been an improvement in the ability of dealers to solve problems fast and understand important fleet issues.