With more and more specification combinations available in new vehicles, manufacturers are increasingly adopting policies that see cars and vans built to order rather than stockpiled ready for delivery.
As a result, fleets have to wait much longer for new vehicles than they used to and will have to plan new vehicle orders well in advance.
Bosses at leasing company Lex say it is already seeing orders for the next plate change in September and is urging more fleets to plan ahead. Managing director Jon Walden said the situation is likely to become the norm as more manufacturers look at streamlining their operations.
“With manufacturers fighting to make profits, they have taken the decision to run their stocking schedules as tight as possible,” he said. “This is against a background of manufacturers widening customer choice.
“The fleet industry and manufacturers should have an open discussion about supply so that fleets and their drivers aren’t inconvenienced too badly.”
Andy Gray, fleet manager for RAC Auto Windscreens, said he had heard of several fleets running into difficulties when ordering new vehicles and realising that they won’t arrive quickly enough.
He said: “Manufacturers aren’t building to stockpile any more – they’re building to order. But people are so demanding that they don’t appreciate the lead times.”
Chuck Ives, fleet manager for Network Rail, said: “A 20-week wait is not unusual. It’s quite worrying.”
Andrew Mann, managing director of leasing company JCT600, warned: “It could get worse before it gets better – the days of a fleet full of standard cars are gone.”
Some manufacturers have told the leasing company about supply delays caused by shipping issues, while some Japanese manufacturers are diverting volume originally destined for the UK to the US, where demand has increased and margins are higher.
SMMT spokesman Nigel Wonnacott said: “It’s an inevitable consequence of progress in efficiency and ensuring that consumers get what they want, including fleet customers.
“They want what they want, not what manufacturers are prepared to give them. As a result, some vehicles are on longer waiting lists than they would be if there were vehicles in a field ready to be delivered.”