Government plans that will result in the closure of 39 DVLA regional offices could result in fleets having to wait longer for vehicles to be delivered.
That’s the view of Malcolm Pearson, fleet director at Holdcroft Motor Group, who is concerned that a delay in the delivery of tax discs could cause a headache for fleets, as well as dealers.
Effectively, the dealer controls the tax disc process, but has to wait for permission from the leasing company to register the car at which point the disc is ordered.
But with regional offices being shut, the dealer will no longer be able to issue the tax disc on site and collect from its nearest centre. Instead, it will be issued centrally by the DVLA which Pearson believes could result in it taking up to three weeks to receive the disc.
“It creates a dilemma,” said Pearson, whose group holds Honda, Hyundai, Mazda, Nissan, Toyota and Volvo franchises among its 15 dealerships. “Do you want it sent to the dealership or sent to the customer, but then who is the customer?
“The leasing company won’t want it because of the cost of administering the service and the associated time delays in getting the disc to the driver, and fleets do not want a vehicle delivered without the tax disc as there may be potential repercussions for non-displaying and a lack of awareness on the drivers’ side.”
Pre-ordering the tax disc isn’t the answer either, according to Pearson, who says that dealers have to wait for permission from the leasing company, otherwise it would be going against the current terms written into supplier agreements.
And, if dealers did pre-order the tax disc before the delivery is confirmed, they could end up with a vehicle being taxed and registered with no end customer, because a prospective order could be cancelled.
Pearson is not alone in viewing the changes with concern. Attendees at ACFO’s recent London West regional meeting also highlighted how the distribution of tax discs being centralised could cause problems.
John Pryor, regional officer for ACFO London West, said: “Fleet managers are concerned and there seems to be no clarity on what’s going to happen and what should be deemed best practice in how a car should be delivered. They’re calling on the industry to have a clear process.”
The changes to the DVLA will result in a £26 million year-on-year saving for the taxpayer and office closures will take effect later this year.
The BVRLA told Fleet News that it has been working with the DVLA, its members and dealer groups to ensure that the new system for ordering tax discs doesn’t impact on fleets.
BVRLA chief executive John Lewis said: “Dealers will be able to place orders for 25 tax discs or more on the DVLA’s next-day delivery service, which should cover the vast majority of fleet orders and ensure that the existing pre-delivery process is unaffected.
“For smaller batches, there will still be a three- to five-day tax disc ordering service, and we are confident that our members will be able to work with dealers to ensure that this, also, does not result in any delay in delivering vehicles.”
However, Pearson believes that with the service being centralised, the DVLA would not be able to achieve the three- to five-day turnaround times.
Lewis also highlighted the option of dealers registering a vehicle 14 days in advance and said it was very unusual for a leasing company to cancel a vehicle order.
Two of the country’s biggest leasing providers, Lex Autolease and LeasePlan, are also discussing solutions to potential problems surrounding the DVLA changes.
Ian Thomson, head of fleet operations at Lex Autolease, said: “A time lag between new vehicle deliveries and tax disc production could cause disruption for our customers.”
Shona Harper, general manager of fleet administration at LeasePlan, said the company had set up a working group to ensure that the changes go ahead with “minimal inconvenience” to its drivers, fleet managers and franchisees.
The working group will meet on March 26, with the BVRLA and other leasing companies, to discuss what extra resource will be needed to manage the changes and minimise any potential delays in the delivery of vehicles.