Company car drivers start considering their next company car almost the instant they pick up the keys to their current vehicle, according to a new report.
The Fleet: Driver study, by Sewells Research & Insight, also reveals how company car drivers derive less enjoyment from the experience of choosing a new company car, the longer the process goes on.
Fleet: Driver uncovered a four-stage process in company car selection, with drivers progressing from ‘pre-consideration’ to ‘active consideration’, then ‘action’, before making their ‘final choice’. The study found that 42% of drivers look forward to the ‘active consideration’ stage when they research their options, and a similar percentage enjoy this step.
But by the time they are forced to take action, either visiting a dealer or booking a test drive, only 34% of drivers enjoy the process. Few feel special, despite wielding significant budgets, with drivers of ‘job need’ cars deriving significantly less pleasure from the selection process than older, more senior ‘perk’ car drivers.
One key insight in Fleet: Driver is the difficulty for manufacturers and dealers to influence drivers while they are in the pre-new car prompt and research phases. Yet by the time drivers reach the action stage (visiting franchise dealers/taking test drives), many have already made up their minds on their next company car, before the traditional touch points of visiting dealerships and test driving models.
More than one in three (35%) of company car drivers say they have made up their minds before visiting a franchised dealer, and 40% say they had already made up their minds before a test drive. By the time drivers consult manufacturer websites, their most common source of information, they have already settled on their future car and are simply fine tuning their choices.
Their decisions are instead influenced heavily by online sources, social media, work colleagues and especially family considerations. Fleet managers are particularly influential in the early stage of decision making for drivers of mainstream, volume manufacturer brands, but at the business end of proceedings it’s line managers and senior management who are most heavily involved, eclipsing the fleet department.
Drivers are still demonstrating their own empowerment with their choices and their willingness to contribute towards the cost of their car in order to secure an upgrade to a higher performance or better specified model. Fleet: Driver found that more than 50% of drivers taking up the option to contribute towards their car in return for an upgrade. This percentage is even higher for corporate drivers working for businesses that employ more than 250 staff than for drivers working for SMEs.
There is, however, one bright glimmer of hope for manufacturers and dealers. When drivers get down to their final choice of vehicle, comparing standard specification and options, 60% admit to changing their minds at the last minute.
Simon Staplehurst, commerical research director, says Fleet: Driver is, “particularly important to support better marketing, campaign and planning and customer servicing priorities around any new product launches.
“This is particularly opportune in 2018 with nearly 90 new models being planned for launch in 2018 within the wider economic challenges faced this year. This tool is designed to provide better fleet specific marketing for those brands launching models across competing SMMT segment bands.”
Fleet Driver results were supported by six focus groups of company car drivers, equating to more than 50 drivers and 1,000 online interviews among user-choosers in the market for a new company car and more than 200 interviews with company car drivers for their experience of manufacturers websites.