Leasing companies have praised manufacturers for their efforts to improve relationships with the industry in the past year – and they have set out four priority areas to improve levels of support still further in future.
The four-step partnership plan is part of major new survey into supplier attitudes in the fleet market, carried out by Fleet Leasing, particularly focusing on the views of manufacturers and leasing companies.
More than 150 executives took part in the research, which is designed to monitor the financial health of the supplier sector and key market trends.
Overall, 84% of leasing companies say their relationships with leasing companies are stable or improving, with 41% saying they are improving. Only a tiny minority say relationships are getting worse.
One leasing executive commented: “Some manufacturers have woken up more to the fact that they now, more than ever, need the fleet and leasing industry.”
Another said: “Nothing has changed because they are all trying so hard. We have long-term ongoing relationships which appear to be continuing.”
As part of the research, leasing companies were asked to set out some of the key changes that manufacturers could make to improve their service to leasing companies.
After being categorised, these fall into four broad areas – Communication, Pricing, Supply and Support.
Support is most frequently referenced by leasing companies as a priority area, followed by communication. Pricing is third followed by supply issues.
The results suggest that leasing company priorities are focused on strategic improvements that will benefit fleet customers and improve their levels of service in the long-term.
Where leasing companies have provided more detail on their support requirements, there is a clear focus on the need for more frequent face-to-face communication and open dialogue.
Comments include the need for ‘swifter accessibility/availability to key personnel’ and the need to ‘build relationships’.
Industry executives suggest this can only be achieved by manufacturer contacts being more readily available and open to meetings.
To meet this demand, manufacturers may need to employ more account managers, but the return will include more benefits at a product level.
One leasing executive said: “Manufacturers need to really listen to us when planning specification levels of new models for the leasing market place.”
The danger of not having enough resource was highlighted by one leasing company which commented: “We rarely see a zone representative or manufacturer’s business development manager. When you telephone, you usually get their voicemail.”
Once models are in the market, leasing company requirements become more operationally-focused. These include the need for greater interaction with the dealer network to provide a more joined-up service, improving the warranty claims process and taking more ownership when issues occur.
This leads to the second priority area – communication, particularly when it comes to leasing firms keeping customers and systems updated about the vast array of products and specifications on offer.
A common concern is the speed of response to requests for information and data, along with the need for more notice about price changes and early warning of model-year change information.
Other strategic information that can help includes more sales performance data at a model level and information on remarketing performance.
Operational concerns related to communication range from swifter warnings of any delivery delays to providing more accurate fuel economy figures, as fleets are showing growing concern at the differential between the official combined fuel economy figure of models and real-world performance.
The third priority area, pricing, focused on three areas. These cover the need to create a level playing field with competitors, especially manufacturer-owned leasing arms, simplifying support terms and adjusting warranty and service terms, including labour rates.
The fourth priority area, supply, mainly relates to improving lead times on models and providing quicker access to new models, particularly when it comes to delivery and access to demonstrators.