Fleet News

Fleet funding: big on the inside

A VISIT to the offices of Appleyard Vehicle Contracts compares closely to stepping into Doctor Who’s Tardis.

Both are relatively understated on the outside and first impressions suggest space is at a premium. But step inside and a whole new world opens up.

The physical appearance of the company’s Leeds-based headquarters mirrors what might be seen as its position in the intensely competitive contract hire and leasing market. In terms of profile, it hasn’t particularly shouted about its progress in the past few years, but inside, the team points to massive strides made both in customer service, products, staff development and its order bank.

Managing director Alan Maude said: ‘In a survey we carried out last year, 97% of customers said they would recommend us to someone else.

‘We have a loyal client base but because we make the effort. We are a good, different and interesting proposition.’

But it is particularly people that make the difference, Maude argues, adding: ‘The enthusiasm in this business is phenomenal – everyone is just so helpful.

‘We feel we can differentiate ourselves in our treatment of customers, including drivers. It is our people that make us successful.’

For Mel Goodliffe, who recently joined the company as sales and marketing director after 16 years in the leasing industry with companies including Citicapital Fleet, ACL and Interleasing, the focus among the small team on customer service is clear.

He said: ‘One of the things that keeps coming back to us is customer service. Clients love being able to ring the same person and clear up a problem quickly.

‘People always worry that their contact is changing with some leasing companies, but it is not here. We are a big company, with big resources, but a small company ethos.

‘Everyone in this building knows everyone. We have a good rapport with the staff which builds atmosphere. It is a fun environment.’

Maude added: ‘It is an organisation focused on people and that means a lot to me. We don’t have time for busy fools. People want to be part of the team and make a difference.’

The joint commitment between company and employees extends to its commitment to training that will help the firm understand its customers better.

Aside from the commitment to its people, the firm claims it has a lot of unique selling points, which set it apart from rivals.

Maude said: ‘We have an in-house IT team, with four programmers and two web developers. Overall, 70% of customers use this firm’s web-services.’

Its recipe for success is backed up by its strong standing in the Fleet News FN50 list of the largest contract hire and leasing firms in the UK according to fleet size, where it stands in joint 18th place, making it the largest independent leasing company in the country.

Its position is all the more rare when you consider many of its rivals in the independent sector have been picked off in a spate of acquisitions during the creation of the leasing superleague that now dominates the market.

But AVC’s independence is at the heart of a leasing proposition built around the customer, with extremely high commitment from employees.

For example, the firm’s annual ride and drive event at Shugborough Hall brought in a record number of people last year, backed by all the major manufacturers, who provided 5,000 test drives.

It also remarkets a huge proportion of its own cars through trade sales held two times a week. Each year, it will sell 6,000 cars from a site near Leeds where it has been based for about six years.

It has also been winning major contracts from fleets such as the Caudwell Group, with a fleet size of more than 1,000 vehicles.

Staffordshire County Council last year awarded the tender for provision of their car fleet to AVC for the third time. Services provided include a dedicated IT driver quotation system.

The firm also has a new business development team, led by Mark Pedley and supported by Nickie Kilkenny and Dean Miles.

Maude said: ‘We are not trying to change the world, but showing customers our genuine benefits, such as the history of our staff commitment, low employee turnover and desire to deliver to market.’

Like the Tardis, it is what is on the inside that counts.

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