Fleet News

Guest opinion: A charter for fleets and dealers makes sense

ARE dealers ignoring your needs? Do you understand what their concerns are? It seems there’s a lack of understanding on both sides. Fleets want prompt, courteous service and dealers want a fair pay for a fair job. Neither seems to get what they want.

Fleet drivers make up more than half of the UK’s car buying public but some dealers treat them as inferior to retail customers, relegating them to the back of the queue for service and repair work, refusing to offer them courtesy cars and even, in one case we’ve heard about, refusing to supply new cars period – until, that is, the manufacturer stepped in.

Fleet News recently launched a Fair Dealer campaign demanding better service from retailers, but we don’t believe it’s that simple. Yes, there are some sub-standard retailers out there who are shunning fleets and delaying repairs. And some manufacturers are exasperated by what they see as a lack of compliance from their fleet dealers.

But there are hundreds more retailers who are doing a fantastic job and deserve to be recognised by fleets for their services. The problem is, in many cases, they aren’t. Payment for fleet business is often late and at rates that are barely profitable – and that’s the real reason why the relationship between retailers and fleets can break down.

The AM campaign for a fairer deal for retailers selling and repairing cars for fleet customers is gathering momentum – we’ve spoken to retailers, manufacturers and fleets who each would like a set of ground rules that would act as a charter, forming the basis of their relationships.

A similar agreement exists in shipping, called the Charterparty, where a simply-worded document lays out expectations and requirements of both parties, which can then be weaved into the official contract.

This is a legally-binding document which ensures there is no room for doubt about the specific terms of the agreement. It also helps to promote shipping and shipbroking as a profession. AM is planning to create a similar charter over the coming months in consultation with the leading associations and companies across the industry, and we need your feedback. We’re asking dealers what terms would you like to see in a contract.

The answers include minimum payment periods and agreed and consistent work volumes. But we also want to know what fleets and carmakers want to see. Set waiting periods and replacement vehicles, probably; courteous service, most definitely; what else?

Fleet customers purchase more than half the cars in the UK – they wield immense buying power and can fill dealers’ workshops with aftersales business – and let’s not forget that competition for service and repair is intensifying as more independents focus on this business: the charter will aim to cover them as well to create a level playing field.

Retailers cannot afford to ignore fleets; but conversely, fleets cannot afford to ignore the needs of retailers.

  • What do you think? E-mail stephen.briers@emap.com

    Stephen Briers
    Editor, AM, magazine for the automotive industry

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