A little less complication
Sometimes the simplest ideas are the best. Even in these straitened times car manufacturers can find themselves needlessly investing sizeable budgets into winning the hearts and minds of user-choosers, when something less prosaic and more straightforward will often do the job better.
Take test drives: a vital, but often unsatisfactory, element in the company car equation.
You’re a company car driver and it’s coming up to replacement time. You know exactly what your budget is and fancy something a bit different to the workhorse you’ve lived with for the past four years. You check What Car? to see what’s on the market, in your price band and then weigh up your BiK costs. You then wander into a car dealership, affecting a degree of nonchalance as you pretend to be in the market for a new car, paid for with your hard-earned cash. The salesman will be attentive as he shows you around the showroom models, running through the bells, whistles and optional extras. You then take the car for a 15-minute test drive. Most of it will be spent rummaging around in the low gears as you navigate through busy town traffic, with the salesman sat beside you running through the myriad finance options, the benefits of an extended warranty package, the reasons why you should treat your purchase to a paint protection treatment and why GAP insurance is a no-brainer.
Let’s be honest – this is the way many company cars are chosen and is probably the favoured course of action suggested by fleet managers.
It does not have to be that way. Some car brands – notably Volvo and Citroën – have looked at how they can improve their test car provision and are now delivering some creative solutions.
Volvo’s newly launched nationwide test drive programme removes the need for user-chooser subterfuge as it is aimed at both company car drivers and private buyers. The Freedom scheme gives company car drivers a better understanding of the vehicle they are interested in and puts them in direct contact with the dealer who will probably end up supplying and servicing the vehicle. The scheme is so simple and obvious it’s a wonder nothing like this has been offered before; other brands targeting user-choosers must be kicking themselves.
The programme enables drivers to book the cars they’re interested in and drive them from a choice of plush country hotels dotted around the UK.
User-choosers can pre-book two cars and drive them for 45 minutes apiece, having already chosen which route best suits them: town, country or motorway. Sounds good, but where Volvo has really added some creative value is that test drives are unaccompanied and cars can be filled with family members and their paraphernalia from car seats and push chairs to golf clubs and surfboards.
Drivers who identify their next company cars are then put in touch with their nearest dealer to handle the business part of the transaction.
Citroën has also addressed its test drive offerings. The company already offers company car drivers an online test drive booking service, facilitated by their nearest Citroën dealer, but has just gone a step further by allowing drivers to take models in its DS5 range away for up to 24 hours.
By linking up with Dayinsure, the temporary car insurance provider, Citroën has been able to deliver an initiative that, like Volvo’s, allows potential customers to assess cars in what will be their natural environments.
Initiatives like these from Volvo and Citroën will hopefully put company car test drives higher up the agendas of car manufacturers and their dealers.