Fleets in the UK face a new car supply situation that, at best, remains extremely irregular and, at worst, continues to deteriorate, reports the Association of Fleet Professionals (AFP).
Feedback from across AFP membership showed that serious problems were persisting and causing increasing operational disruption, according to Paul Hollick, the organization’s chair.
A range of issues factor into the worldwide problem, from demand for raw materials to semiconductor shortages through to, more recently, the war in Ukraine hitting key component manufacturing.
“However, it is also a problem that is very much affecting fleet managers in the UK and we are hearing many stories that suggest the situation is worsening, at least for certain businesses, and show no apparent signs of improving,” said Hollick.
Some fleet managers recount drivers selecting a new car as many as six times before finding one a manufacturer will provide an production slot – a date likely to be a year or more away, said Hollick.
“Other manufacturers have closed their order books either completely or for certain models. In general terms, PHEVs have become very difficult to acquire, and it seems that production is being skewed away from them towards EVs, probably because of CAFE regulations.
When cars can be obtained and delivered, they often do not meet the order specification. The AFP cites wrong vehicle color is commonplace, as well as missing equipment – parking sensors seem to be a particular issue – with no resulting adjustment in price.
These problems exist for gasoline and diesel vehicles but can be doubled for EVs, said Hollick.
Fleets have been compelled to operate their existing cars for as long as possible.
“The situation creates two sets of problems,” Hollick pointed out. “The first is that the car is ageing and difficulties with keeping it on the road in a cost effective manner increase over time. Some cars are now being operated into their fifth year and will probably still be on the fleet in their sixth because they cannot be replaced. These are unchartered waters in maintenance terms.
“The second is an employee satisfaction issue. Drivers who are keen to move into EVs but simply cannot get hold of the right model are having to continue to pay benefit in kind on ageing and increasingly unattractive diesel models, with no solution in sight. There is no easy answer to this situation and it does cause some disruption.”
Hollick added that AFP members had become adept at swapping information about vehicle availability during the last year or longer.
“It is very difficult to know when the underlying supply issues will start to noticeably improve but with the degree of order backlog that exists, we don’t expect to see any real change for at least a year or probably longer,” Hollick advised.