Fleet News

How are fleet manufacturers meeting the challenges of Covid-19? Mitsubishi Motors responds

Clive Messenger

In May and June, Fleet News surveyed all the major manufacturers to find out how they were responding to the coronavirus pandemic, how they are supporting their fleets customers and their views on the type of impact it would have on the fleet sector.

 

The resulting article was published in the June edition of Fleet News.

Here is Mitsubishi Motors response.

Fleet News spoke to Clive Messenger, Mitsubishi Motors' general manager of fleet operations (answers as at 5/6/20)

 

How are you and your team staying operational in times of Covid-19? 

While the initial lockdown was very disruptive, as restrictions have eased and more protection equipment has become available we’ve been able to re-open our Mitsubishi Special Vehicle and Portbury operations allowing us to work through some of the critical orders for various agencies waiting on vehicles.

Now that showrooms are open and queries are coming in again, we are in a good place to respond and deliver vehicles to our fleet customers within two to four weeks thanks to plentiful stock and a minimal backlog.

 

What action are you taking to support fleets during the Covid-19 crisis?

A lot of what we’re doing to support retail customers applies to our fleet users too, so we have had dealerships open for service and maintenance for weeks now and we have been very flexible as regards the agreement terms we have with various companies.

We have been open – virtually – for questions and enquiries the entire time and our Mitsubishi Special Vehicles Operation reopened a number of weeks ago to ensure emergency services, government agencies and other critical care clients are catered to during the crisis.

 

What proportion of your retail network remains open for SMR business?

It varied over the course of the lockdown, ranging from about a third at the height of the restrictions to practically all dealer workshops being open now.

 

When will your retail networks start vehicle deliveries and collections?

We haven’t stopped. We’ve offered free delivery and trade-in collection for the duration of the restrictions and with our operations getting back up to speed again we can now get a vehicle to a customer within two to four weeks.

 

Will Covid-19 have a bigger and longer lasting impact on our industry than the financial crisis in 2008? Please explain your view.

It would be unwise to even attempt predicting anything these days but it’s worth remembering that the industry was entering a state of flux anyway thanks to the drive towards electrification.

Coronavirus will have an economic impact, no question, but if this government favours stimuli over austerity, as seems to be the case, then this will undoubtedly speed up the recovery, particularly if there are better incentives for customers to move to electrified vehicles to accelerate the Road to Zero strategy.

 

How much of a decline in total market fleet sales are you forecasting this year?

There are so many variables to consider here, we have seen numerous attempts to forecast the market this year and the impact of Covid-19 and there is a difference in them all.

Our own internal assumptions is that the market will be down about 25%, there will be a number of influences on this such as Derogation and CAFE compliance. We are positive about our ability to perform with strong models, particularly Outlander PHEV and L200.

 

Please outline your exit strategy and how you believe the way business is carried out in future might change – the so-called ‘new normal’.

We are not as reliant on the fleet sector as other companies, perhaps, but it is still a hugely important part of our business and without giving too much away we’re confident our future product line up will generate new business for us.

Otherwise, from a fleet perspective, we don’t see things changing that radically – we’ll have more virtual meetings and the processes for test drives and handovers will be conducted differently but I think the industry is already adapting well to the ‘new normal’.

 

How soon do you think fleet sales will recover after the coronavirus threat is over?

That ball is in the government’s court. The nation responded to the call to hunker down during the coronavirus storm so how quickly the economy and our industry recovers will depend massively on the effectiveness of the government’s stimulus packages.

 

Will we experience a break on the development of MaaS and fleet electrification?

MaaS relies on wide public sharing – either of machinery or space within a mode of transport – and that doesn’t mesh with social distancing and high levels of sanitisation. So that could see some long-term disruption depending on what happens with this and future coronavirus strains.

I don’t think you’ll see a noticeable slowdown in the move to vehicle electrification, though. Those industry wheels are already turning and gather speed off the back of growing public and governmental desire to drive greener vehicles.

In some ways, the shift could be accelerated by a new appreciation for quieter and cleaner roads, and the need to get to where we need to more sustainably versus low-capacity public transport.

 

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Electric fleet: Workplace charging

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