Relationships between fleets and motor manufacturers appear to be at an “all-time low”, says the Association of Fleet Professionals (AFP), a U.K.-based nonprofit supporting the corporate fleet industry.
The AFP findings echo similar sentiments and complaints in the North American fleet community Automotive Fleet Editor Mike Antich reported earlier this year.
AFP members across U.K. fleet industry are reporting issues such as late cancelled orders, lack of communication from representatives from major car and van makers, and a suspicion that large fleets are often being placed last when stock is allocated.
Getting Worse Not Better
“There’s a general perception that this issue is getting worse rather than better,” commented Paul Hollick, AFP chair. “Everyone knows and understands that there are ongoing production issues affecting almost every manufacturer, but no-one can comprehend why this has seemingly caused a complete breakdown in responsibility and communication.
According to Hollick, the difficulties with placing orders, connecting with the right OEM contact, and orders being pulled without explanations “seem to be consistent for almost every manufacturer across all of our fleets.
“We are hearing regular stories from across our membership about orders for dozens or even hundreds of cars and vans being cancelled more than a year after they were first made and within weeks of when they were due,” Hollick explained. “This leaves fleets high and dry. It’s having a direct impact on businesses that need transport and, on a personal basis, potentially damages the perception of the fleet manager within their business.”
With such high degrees of ill feeling, some in the fleet industry talk of organizing manufacturer boycotts, said Hollick.
“As an organization, we don’t think any form of boycott would be an effective strategy but the fact that such an idea is being raised just shows the strength of feeling,” he stated.
Offending OEMs Won’t be ‘Easily Forgiven’
Hollick said fleets have repeatedly promised that when supply issues return to some kind of normality, “the worst-offending manufacturers will not be easily forgiven and our members will not work with them in the future where a choice exists.”
A further point of contention, Hollick said, was manufacturers appeared to be giving priority to retail customers and small fleets over large scale vehicle buyers of vehicles.
“Especially for certain types of more fashionable vehicle, it seems that it is easier to get hold of supply if you a private individual or if you run 10 vehicles rather than if you run a thousand,” he pointed out. “This is something that makes no sense whatsoever – especially at a time when fleets are often paying something very close to retail prices.
“It’s a common complaint that before the pandemic, fleet managers were pursued by manufacturer reps on a daily basis and now, they haven’t heard from any in years. That’s not a basis for responsible, long-term partnerships. Manufacturers should realize the damage they are doing and change their approach as quickly as possible.”
Hearing much the same unhappy criticisms from North American fleet managers, Antich said he believed the market difficulties will ultimately be resolved, but a “collective solution” is required “to keep the buyer-seller relationship strong.” He encouraged fleet industry leaders to “to grab the baton and take the collective lead” to rebuild manufacturer-fleet relationships and help them grow stronger in the future.