Leasing companies are working with fleet decision-makers to extend car and van contracts, where necessary, and mitigate potential charges incurred during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Fleets are facing numerous problems, with some vehicles left idle during the lockdown and other operators facing increased demand.
Some may be suffering financial difficulties, while others may need to extend contracts during the lockdown or have concerns around mileage excess charges due to the increase workload.
However, some of the country’s largest vehicle leasing providers have told Fleet News they are working around the clock to provide assistance to customers during the coronavirus crisis.
LeasePlan says it has had to make the “difficult decision” to temporarily halt its vehicle collection and delivery services, partly due to concerns over safety and partly as the manufacturers have now followed the advice and also shut down.
Attila Dobos, operations director at LeasePlan UK, said: “We understand that this will pose some challenges, but the safety of our customers and team remains our number one priority.
“We hope to resume a normal level of service as soon as possible and will continue to keep our customers up to date with any developments.
“When the Government makes it clear that we can begin collections and deliveries again and the product is available, we will do our utmost to get out to our customers quickly and efficiently.”
Arval has halted non-essential vehicle deliveries and collections during the lockdown. Miguel Cabaca, managing director of Arval UK, explained: “We’re working closely with our partners to manage any risks to our supply chain as the situation develops.
“For businesses that are implementing critical services and need a vehicle to be delivered, we are making bespoke arrangements so they can continue to support key workers and essential services.”
In these circumstances, to understand if there is any risk of infection, Arval’s delivery partners are getting in touch beforehand to discuss specific arrangements and manage any risk of infection.
At Ogilvie Fleet, sales director Nick Hardy told Fleet News that every team member was now working from home as part of its business continuity plan and every single person is “working hard to ensure that we maintain a service provision to all of our customers”.
Collections and deliveries have also been stopped. He said: “We want to support all of our essential support clients that need transportation, but obviously have to do so within the confines of Government legislation and network opening availabilities.”
Hardy explained that with deliveries and collections all but stopped, clients will move certain vehicles into a period of “informal extension”.
“This is not unusual to use as we ensure this type of flexibility is the case at all times, not just now,” he said. “Contract mileages are extended pro-rata with the extension period, so clients have comfort in knowing that they won’t be adversely affected by any additional miles being travelled vis-a-vis their primary period contract mileage.”
However, he added: “The overriding likelihood is that most vehicles mileages will reduce during the lockdown period.”
LeasePlan says it is currently working on extending the contracts of its customers, including key workers, to keep them as mobile as possible.
Dobos explained: “We are offering a number of options for our customers to choose from, designed to cater to their individual needs and personal circumstances. These include formal and informal extension agreements.
“If neither option is suitable, we are asking customers to get in touch with us directly where they can discuss further options with our dedicated customer services team.
“Due to the unprecedented situation we are currently in, we’re working hard to support our customers and find right the solutions for them.”
LeasePlan says customers individual mileage allowances will continue to roll on, on a pro-rata basis.
On excess mileage charges, Arval says that, as with end of contract extensions, it will be as “understanding as possible in these difficult times”.
Cabaca said: “We will be having individual discussions and offering proactive solutions client by client.”
In terms of service, maintenance and repair (SMR), Arval said services are operating with a limited capacity. “Our suppliers have skeleton staff to cope with emergencies and keep customers who are making essential journeys mobile,” explained Cabaca.
“Keeping critical fleets mobile is the main priority and so to reduce demand, we have asked customers to postpone any non-essential SMR work until the virus situation settles.
“Tyre replacements and routine servicing can be booked online and our staff are working remotely to answer driver questions on site closures, routine servicing, and repairs including glass, via the Arval Contact Centre.”
At this time, he said accident management and breakdown processes remain unchanged and it is currently reviewing the impact of the MOT exemption on its risk fleet.
Cabaca continued: “We appreciate that coronavirus is extremely challenging for all our customers’ cashflow and have asked them to get in touch with us if they are experiencing any financial challenges so we can proactively discuss options.
“We’re pleased to see that the Government has provided increased support for businesses during this difficult time and are also looking at other initiatives which may alleviate some of the immediate worry customers are facing.”
Alphabet says it is confident that it is “well prepared” to support customers through this challenging time.
“Through the commitment, passion and dedication of our employees – supported by our remote working and connected technology platforms – we will continue to provide the service and support that Alphabet customers need right now,” said Alphabet’s chief commercial officer, Simon Carr.
“We are aware that at this time there are more important concerns than vehicles. But the impact of COVID-19 on almost every business, in every conceivable aspect of their operations and functions, mean that we are experiencing unprecedented demand for our support and guidance.
“It’s not quite ‘business as usual’ in these strange and uncertain times, but Alphabet will continue to be there for our customers and their employees – albeit over skype, email or phone.
“Everyone at Alphabet understands the responsibility we have to our customers during the coronavirus crisis. We remain absolutely focused on providing customers with the services and support they need during this extremely challenging period for us all.”
If you’re a fleet decision-maker, please take three minutes to take our coronavirus survey.