Fleet Assist has responded to “rising corporate demand” and rising registrations of alternatively-fuelled cars by ensuring almost all of its 5,000 franchise and independent service outlets can carry out SMR work on plug-in vehicles.
Virtually all of the 4,500 franchise garages in the Fleet Assist network now have the capability and technical knowledge to maintain hybrid and plug-in vehicles, alongside more than 400 independent outlets, which equates to approximately 80% of the network.
Fleet Assist’s head of network and technical services Chris Crow said: “As vehicle technology evolves so do the requirements of an aftersales network and how it delivers solutions to ensure costs are controlled, whilst vehicle downtime is kept to a minimum.
“Government initiatives amplify the pressure on fleet decision-makers and company car and van drivers to select ultra-low emission vehicles. In the vanguard of that development are fleet companies supplying hybrid, plug-in or pure electric vehicles.
“That presents fleet companies with new challenges in ensuring their network of repairer garages, whether franchise or independent, are appropriately equipped and have sufficient suitably trained mechanics to safely maintain and carryout repairs on such vehicles as fleet volumes grow.
“Therefore, it is essential that Fleet Assist continues to proactively manage its network and ensure it evolves and remains fit-for-purpose to the total satisfaction of customers in a rapidly developing new car and van market.”
In 2018 registrations of alternatively-fuelled cars are almost 22% up on the first 10 months of last year, according to data from the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders, taking a near 6% market share.
With the government’s focus on improving air quality through the take-up of alternatively fuelled vehicles, Crow said: “As is the case with conventional fossil powered vehicles, proactively managing the garage network that fleet operators use for SMR work on car and vans - and a contract hire and leasing company works with - is essential to effective and efficient vehicle operations and cost-control. A one-size fits all solution is no longer relevant.”
Fleet Assist works actively with motor manufacturers to ensure the franchised garages on its network can undertake SMR work on hybrid and plug-in vehicles and receives updates on dealer capabilities, as and when they change.
Furthermore, some fleet operators also require access to independent garages to undertake SMR work on fleet vehicles. “We are actively working with the independent garages on our network, and a number of industry associations, to ensure they are up to the challenge,” said Crow.
“These garages must have technically qualified mechanics possessing the appropriate Institute of the Motor Industry technical accreditation, or equivalent, to safely undertake the required SMR work on these vehicles, outside of the franchised network.
“As technology progresses and the knowledge and diagnostic equipment required to maintain these vehicles grows, we review the qualifications held by all of our network independent garages to ensure they remain current, along with equipment capability.
“To ensure the network has sufficient capacity to manage the peaks and troughs of SMR workflow and keep booking lead times to a minimum, Fleet Assist regularly reviews the size of the garage network.
"Therefore, as the volume of hybrid and plug-in vehicles on the roads continues to rise, Fleet Assist will seek to expand the network of suitably qualified and equipped garages, both franchise and independent.”