Daily rental companies report that they have avoided the lengthy lead times fleets have had to endure.
Fleets have been forced to play the waiting game for the past three years due to the economic downturn, higher European demand for low CO2 models and the impact of the earthquake in Japan earlier this year.
Towards the end of 2010, the BVRLA reported that fleets faced an 18-20-week wait for a factory-ordered car and, while things have improved, issues still remain with a number of models.
However, the rental industry appears to have escaped largely unscathed thanks to better utilisation of vehicles and privileged manufacturer relationships.
BVRLA chief executive John Lewis said: “Rental vehicles were in relatively short supply in 2010 and many operators dealt with this by extending fleet lifecycles.
“This situation has improved and most rental companies can now get the vehicles they want rather than what the manufacturer tells them they can have.”
However, Lewis recognises the ‘close’ working relationship that the rental industry and manufacturers enjoy means lead times are not a massive issue.
Enterprise Rent-a-Car operates a multi-badge fleet of more than 50,000 vehicles in the UK, including 8,000 vans, and has seen significant growth over the past couple of years.
It is a risk purchaser of vehicles and therefore looks to secure its fleet buy well in advance, basing it on previous trends and demand.
Rob Ingram, director of business rental at Enterprise, said: “The fact we buy our vehicles outright gives us the flexibility to de-fleet or hold vehicles a little longer to help meet the demands of corporate customers.
“As we operate in several sectors, including insurance replacement, fleet rental and consumer car hire, we're also able to utilise lower demand in one area to service higher demand in another.
“For example, in the spates of bad winter weather over the past few years we actually switched off our consumer business completely. That meant we could ensure our fleet was able to meet the increased demand from corporate customers as the snow began to melt.
“This approach, combined with being able to hold vehicles a little longer or de-fleet them, gives us great scalability.”
Planning has been key for Europcar, which operates more than 45,000 cars in the UK and around 6,000 vans.
Ken McCall, managing director at Europcar, explained: “Europcar UK purchases the majority of its vehicles on an annual basis directly from manufacturers, minimising any potential issues with delivery lead times.
“In the rare instance we anticipate there will be an issue with a certain model being unavailable within the expected delivery time, we will extend the vehicles currently on fleet to ensure we can meet our customer’s demands.”
Providing of plenty of notice to manufacturers has kept Northgate Vehicle Hire’s fleet up to speed. Running more than 52,000 vehicles, of which 80% are vans and specialist LCVs, it deals with the likes of Mercedes-Benz, Volkswagen, Ford, Peugeot and Vauxhall.
John Fleet, assets director at Northgate, said: “We have multiple buying cycles due to the fact we will keep vehicles on fleet for between six months and four years, depending on the type of vehicle.
“Our replacement cycle is determined by vehicle use but also demand driven by the used market as we have a remarketing channel, which sells vehicles to retail and trade customers.”
He continued: “Due to the fact we buy core vehicles and that we order four - five months in advance, we have not been troubled by manufacturer and dealer lead times.”
It was a similar story at Thrifty Car and Van Rental, which has a fleet of 12,500 cars and 4,500 vans, and operates a system of advance orders for vehicle acquisitions.
Roger Hancock, managing director of Thrifty Car and Van Rental, said: “Overall we have not really seen any significant changes to the replacement cycles over the last 12 months and any prolonged lead times have been managed with an ad-hoc supply of alternative vehicles.”
Meanwhile, Neil Cunningham, general manager of UK and European strategic projects at Hertz, described how the rental company continued to work “successfully” with a wide range of manufacturers, who realise the “benefits” of placing cars in daily rental.
He continued: “We have aged some of our risk fleet and some manufacturers have extended holding period on buyback cars.”
Another rental company recognizing the value in that manufacturer ‘special’ relationship is Burnt Tree Vehicle Rental, with 1,500 cars, 10,500 vans and 1,000 ‘heavies’.
Fleet controller Dave Adderley said: “We have a proactive fleet plan which is 12 months in advance and is shared with chosen manufacturers.”
What’s your experience as a corporate customer of daily rental? Have you experienced any problems with vehicle availability or longer operating cycles from your rental provider? Email Fleet News at email@example.com with your views