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Dealership closures could harm fleets, says FleetCheck

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The closure of localised franchised dealerships could affect a fleet’s SMR policy, according to FleetCheck.

Peter Golding, managing director at FleetCheck, said that a long-term situation was being created where many businesses were having to travel further for routine servicing, maintenance and repair.

“We’re not picking out any particular manufacturer here because it is effecting a number, but this is something that appears to be happening without much discussion about how it will change provision of SMR for fleets,” he said.

Franchise dealers often operate on very low profit margins and these face further pressures as cars and vans visit workshops less, especially with the expected rapid uptake of electric vehicles (EVs) and more dependence on vehicles that can diagnose their own faults.

Ford is expected to close half of its dealerships by 2025 and Vauxhall has announced up to 100 sites could close.

“The fact remains that utilisation is a fundamental element of fleet management and having a vehicle off the road costs businesses money. The further away the franchise repair centre is, it is likely that it will take longer for servicing or repair to happen.

“This is especially important for van fleets. To an extent, car fleet breakdowns can be managed because their use is typically more sporadic – but vans are often used all day, every day and getting them back on the road is important,” Golding added.

The ongoing loss of franchise dealers could drive more fleets towards independent garages.

“If the franchise dealer network effectively vacates an area, then it opens the door for high-quality independents to take over the business.

“This is, again, much more likely to happen with van fleets than cars but it is certainly the case that for many mainstream cars, having an independent service history rather than franchise is much less of an issue than it once was.

“Additionally, there is a general perception among many of our customers that it is already difficult to book into some franchise dealers. Independents are often simply easier to deal with in that respect, as well as being typically cheaper,” said Golding.

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