Fleet News

Face-to-face: Peter Jackman, Think Automotive Solutions

Peter Jackman spotted what he believed was a large hole in the LCV market – and set up his own firm to plug it.

Key quote:Many of the major leasing companies are simply too big and inflexible to be able to provide a bespoke service

TWENTY-five years fleet industry experience has led Peter Jackman to believe few companies offer a commercial vehicle-focused service targeted at small and medium-sized businesses.

So he has launched his own firm, Think Automotive Solutions, supplying LCVs on a lease or outright purchase basis with related fleet management support and a consultancy service. Additionally, businesses can source used vehicles.

Jackman previously held senior management positions with Hertz Rent a Car, ING Car Lease and most recently, the contract hire and leasing giant Masterlease, before establishing the Bicester, Oxfordshire-based company.

He said: ‘Many of Britain’s largest contract hire and leasing companies have a light commercial vehicle division – but the products offered are not bespoke to the needs of van operators, particularly those operating in the SME sector.

‘Instead, they adjust their car packages to commercial vehicles and that is an approach that we don’t believe is acceptable to businesses. Additionally, many of the major leasing companies are simply too big and inflexible to be able to provide a bespoke service to the numerous organisations that operate a small number of light vans.

‘The LCV market is saturated and drowned in volumes of inflexible vehicle offerings. The big suppliers have shelves full of square products that have to be specially knocked into shape to fit a fleet, particularly small businesses operating locally to their head office.

‘Think Automotive Solutions is totally focused on this market sector and has the experience to offer specific fleet solutions, saving companies time and money. As this is our core business, we will provide our customers with not only bespoke solutions, but also unprecedented levels of customer service, something that has been sadly missing from this sector of the market.’

He added: ‘Historically, most van operators bought their own vehicles and drove them for years. Now there are very attractive LCV funding packages available that make leasing significantly more viable and enable SMEs to benefit from budgeted monthly motoring, which aids corporate cash flow.

‘Meanwhile, for those companies that want to continue to purchase their vans, we can offer a range of high-quality new and used vehicles, the latter being a cost-effective alternative to purchasing new models.’

The April 2007 changes in benefit-in-kind taxation on vans and an ever-increasing focus on managing occupational road risk must also be addressed by all light commercial vehicle operators and Jackman believes many SMEs may have overlooked such developments.

He said: ‘That is one of the reasons why we have launched Think Consultancy, which works in tandem with our vehicle supply division. We want SMEs to see Think Automotive Solutions as a one-stop shop for all their light commercial vehicle requirements including best practice advice. Experience tells us that there are very few vehicle suppliers who are providing a full vehicle sourcing and advice service to companies operating only a handful of vehicles.’

In the run-up to next year’s BIK tax changes, a failure by company bosses to ensure that private use of LCVs is within Inland Revenue guidelines will see drivers’ tax bills rise 600%.

Meanwhile, issues such as the Working Time Directive linked into staff driving schedules, vehicle maintenance and operating vans that are fit-for-purpose all to meet health and safety best practice guidelines, are all areas that, says Jackman, SMEs invariably need help with.

Ensuring that vehicles are suitable for the job required is not only a health and safety issue, but has been born out of the trend in recent years for vehicle manufacturers to rapidly expand their van ranges to accommodate all requirements so the market is no longer divided into car-derived vans and Transit-sized offerings.

As a result, said Jackman: ‘Specialist knowledge is required to make sure fleets operate vehicles that are right for the job. Many organisations where there is no full-time professional fleet decision-maker will not only be unaware of the fiscal and legislative changes impacting on their operations, but they will also be unaware of the plethora of vehicles now available to them.

‘Similarly, it is not just about leasing or buying a vehicle off-the-shelf. In today’s marketplace the specification levels to which a van can be equipped post-production are limitless. It is therefore vital to work with experts to ensure the chosen vehicle is fitted out as effectively and efficiently as possible to make best use of the available space, while taking account of duty of care legislation, particularly if it is intended that staff have to work in the vehicle.’

He concluded: ‘Smaller LCV fleets feel ignored by the bigger companies and are not getting the service required. All of these issues drew me to the conclusion that if I could come up with a business which could provide customer service and expertise targeted at SMEs it would be a winning formula.’

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