Comment: Leasing in a lockdown
Scott Norville, managing director of Silverstone Fleet Management, navigates the opportunities now present in a brave new fleet world.
Like many others across the world, the vehicle leasing industry has been through one of the toughest times imaginable, thanks to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Now, car dealerships are starting to reopen and, it would seem, that the lockdown is starting to lift. So, what does this mean for the future of leasing?
Silverstone Fleet Management took the tough decision to close its doors and furlough some staff as we were simply unable to run our business as usual. However, we stayed in regular touch with clients, funders and suppliers and used that period to learn new skills, fine tune processes and ensure that we are in the strongest position possible to come back from this when it is all over.
Prior to lockdown, we had just had our best two months to date, invested thousands in an office refurbishment and were about to start recruiting for new salespeople to grow our team.
Like many in the industry, I struggled to stay upbeat at first and saw everything I had spent the last eight years working for being negatively impacted by something I couldn’t control. It took me a few weeks to get my head around it all.
Whilst some fleet businesses closed, I watched others ‘pivot’ and change their business model to remain operational during this time. Some focused on supplying vehicles only to key workers to get around the ‘essential travel’ rule and do their bit to make a difference.
And, now, after eight weeks of our office being closed, we have opened again and are gradually re-introducing staff back from furlough. We have a team of seven back working – at a socially safe distance – in our amazing new office. And, as I write this, car dealerships are starting to open their doors again.
Seeing the positives
Whilst this whole situation was obviously awful for all concerned, it has provided the fleet and leasing industry with opportunities. Opportunities to take our head out of the day-to-day and review our business models with a more detached point of view.
Personally, I finally found time to set up the podcast that I have been meaning to launch for months – if not years – and recorded videos for our social media platforms. I also spent some time working on and launching a new website. And I’ve enjoyed going on daily walks with my family – something I’d like to continue doing after the lockdown has been lifted.
The future of fleet management
There is no doubt that we are entering a brave new world right now. Dealerships, brokers and finance providers will have to consider a whole raft of health and safety measures that would never have been in their wildest dreams a few short months ago. From ensuring that social distancing rules are still respected, to unaccompanied test drives and sanitising cars, offices and high touch points between customers – it will take a lot of getting used to.
But there are signs of hope emerging from overseas and within the UK itself. The consensus amongst many UK brokers is the car leasing industry will return from this even stronger than before. In just the last three weeks, we have seen enquiries go up by 1166% at Silverstone Fleet Management.
Reports coming out of China suggest that since its lockdown ended, its automotive industry has quadrupled sales and more people than ever before are preferring to lease vehicles rather than use public transport. It may well be that we see similar things happening here in the future, especially after the government announced that we will all have to wear face masks on public transport going forward.
The next test for UK vehicle leasing firms will be coping with demand once the lockdown is over. Firms must ensure they are ready by reviewing everything from procedures and health and safety to customer journey, websites and communications now.
Personally speaking, I cannot wait for the day our fantastic team is all back together and we can start the next exciting chapter for Silverstone Fleet Management at our newly refurbished office.
For more information visit www.silverstonefleetmanagement.com