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That was the year that was

By / 6 years ago / Features / No Comments

John Lewis, chief executive, BVRLA

How was 2012 for your business?

We have had some major successes on the lobbying front, where the DVLA has finally listened and is looking to deliver a range of electronic services for fleets. These services have the potential to deliver up to £10 million in annual cost savings.

Elsewhere, the Treasury finally agreed to our argument for abolishing the ridiculous 3% diesel car benefit-in-kind tax supplement. Unfortunately, it also announced that it was going to deny the leasing industry access to the 100% first year allowance for ultra-green cars, and as yet has not been able to tell us why.

How have you found the fleet market this year?

The continued economic uncertainty has meant that many companies are reluctant to grow their fleets or engage in wholesale renewals. However, we have not seen a significant increase in contract extensions and the average length of operating leases remains at between three and four years.

What has been the major challenge?

As ever, the major challenge is dealing with the relentless torrent of legislation and regulation. Despite the best intentions of the Red Tape Challenge and occasional progress with agencies such as the DVLA, the Government just can’t resist tinkering – with little understanding of the impact they are having.

What has been pleasantly surprising?

The Government is beginning to get the message that its ultra-low carbon vehicle strategy is wrong. We expect the Government to act on this in 2013.

Will next year be better, or worse, than 2012 in business terms?

RVs and the supply of funding look set to remain strong, but it is anyone’s guess as to what will happen with the wider economy.

Tony Gannon, communications director, BCA

How has the fleet market fared this year?

With on-going economic pressure, rising costs and a relatively weak retail environment, it might seem counter-intuitive to report that fleet and lease used car values continued to climb. However, supplies reaching the wholesale used car market are quite significantly down on the peak seen four to five years ago and there is a real shortage of good quality, ready to retail used cars. This is leading to fierce competition and generally rising values.

What has been the major challenge?

This stock shortage is a long-term issue and is unlikely to change until new car volumes pick up significantly and the economy improves enough to generate a bigger churn of vehicles. And while the rising average prices might suggest otherwise, demand in the wholesale arena actually remains relatively fragile.

What has been pleasantly surprising?

The robustness of the used car industry never ceases to surprise market-watchers, particularly when compared to other business sectors that had fared less well in these difficult economic conditions.

Will next year be better, or worse, than 2012 in business terms?

With the continuing fragility affecting  consumer confidence on the one hand, and a restricted supply of good quality stock on the other, we should not expect to see any significant changes.

David Yates, marketing director, ALD Automotive 

How was 2012 for your business?

The results of our multi-sales channel strategy have been excellent not only in terms of fleet growth – and financially – but also in the very positive feedback we continue to receive on the service levels delivered from both our corporate and 3rd party customers.

Growth of this magnitude has placed a strain on our business but we have some dedicated staff whose commitment has been outstanding in making it work.

How have you found the fleet market this year?

Without doubt, cost control is the biggest issue we’re facing. There is significant pricing pressure in our customers’ core markets and, throughout every area of their business, they are looking to reduce supply chain and operating costs to maintain profitability – and competitiveness – in their own markets.

What has been the major challenge?

Growing at 15% per annum – on the back of two years of 20% growth – in a challenging market whilst maintaining high service levels. Managing cost of risk in uncertain economic times, and differentiating our product in a competitive and mature market.

What has been pleasantly surprising?

The used car market has remained very stable, resulting in consistent vehicle pricing and a healthy CAP performance. This is partly due to the relatively low levels of available stock compared to previous years but also the professional job that our wholesale partners do in retailing used cars.

Will next year be better, or worse, than 2012 in business terms?

The leasing industry will undoubtedly face a number of challenges in the next two to three years in what will remain a very difficult trading market, but we are confident that the economic environment we operate in and the fiscal changes anticipated will not cause any major issues for the business.

Perhaps, the biggest issue facing our industry continues to be the flat-lining of the UK economy and the depressed Eurozone. Business confidence has been shaken badly in the last four years and it will take time for this to be restored. This will undoubtedly have an impact on the corporate market with inevitable moratoriums on new car orders. It’s also becoming clearer that the government sees the ”company car” as offering significant potential for tax revenue generation.

Paul Adler, fleet marketing & motability manager, Vauxhall Fleet

 How was 2012 for your business?

Really good overall, as our strategic fleet plan comes together to improve wholelife costs. Our RVs are getting stronger in our core car lines and we've started to launch new models such as Ampera, Astra GTC, Zafira Tourer, Mokka, ADAM and now Cascada, models which propel the Vauxhall brand into the future. The Tech Line range has helped improve consideration with its combination of low P11D price and high spec.

How have you found the fleet market this year?

It has been tough, as always, but the exchange rate with the Euro has helped us be competitive.

What has been the major challenge?

The tough UK economic climate has affected all businesses and some customers have deferred ordering cars and vans.

What has been pleasantly surprising?

We knew that Ampera was a revolutionary car, but it has simply cleaned up almost all possible awards this year and this supports us to lobby Government to provide a stable, consistent and long term taxation policy for EVs, allowing businesses and company car drivers to plan their costs.

Will next year be better, or worse, than 2012 in business terms?

We see the fleet market as pretty flat year-on-year, highly competitive as always, but our plan is to achieve growth in the ”true fleet” corporate market on the back of our improving whole life costs, Tech Line models and broader, new product portfolio.

Phil Robson, director – fleet & used vehicle operations, Peugeot

How was 2012 for your business?

Sales in 2012 have been good, given the current economic environment. Peugeot fleet sales will be up versus 2011 and despite the economic challenges in the whole industry we have managed to maintain our long-term strategy of residual value improvement.

How have you found the fleet market this year?

We have seen larger fleets continuing to buy, but on the flip-side smaller businesses are using their flexibility and pushing back change dates.

What has been the major challenge?

Evaluating when to take a bloody nose instead of a broken one! Our long term strategy to maximise our residual value position has meant after five years of reducing short term cycle business (rental), by more than 60% in 2012, we will see a small increase compared to 2011.

What has been pleasantly surprising?

Two areas: our continued progression in the LCV market in terms of market share and the appeal it gives business with our very strong LCV range choice, and our continued improvement of car sales within the independent leasing arena – led by 208 and 508.

Will 2013 be better, or worse, than 2012 in business terms?

I foresee it being similar, but evermore challenging. Though the business is cyclic at times, it will be even more affected by key factors (trade, currency exchange, sustainability, etc.) overseas plus the health of European markets and the potential oversupply of new vehicles into the UK market.

Nick Andrews, head of fleet, Mercedes-Benz

How have you found the fleet market this year?

In short, fascinating, challenging, competitive and exciting. The market is more demanding than ever but we've got the most competitive range of vehicles we've ever had.

What has been the major challenge?

It's been a busy year – from the implementation of our new fleet strategy to integrating a new team. We've done it and we're now in an excellent position to enter 2013 with clarity and conviction.

What has been pleasantly surprising?

The positive response we've received from the industry to the plans we've implemented and the approach we've taken. Likewise, our retailers have bought into our Small Business in Partnership programme, which is very exciting, and we've held our first ever CEO Business Forum with the key decision-makers in the industry.

Will next year be better, or worse, than 2012 in business terms?

I have no doubt it will be better! We have the new A-Class, the new CLA and several other new models besides. We have a new sales team, new customers and more developments in our UK fleet strategy to further refine and improve the service we provide.

From this we expect sales growth and customer satisfaction improvement.

Julie Jenner, chairman, ACFO

What has been the major challenge?

The challenge has been, and remains, disjointed Government policy. For example, for the vast majority of fleets electric vehicles remain extremely niche. Yet, the Government looks to support their uptake via its Plug-in Grant system, while removing any incentive for the utilisation of such vehicles through the benefit-in-kind tax system (such vehicles will be taxed at 13% from April 2015).

What has been pleasantly surprising?

Although some marketplace sectors continue to battle tough trading conditions, funding is becoming more available, residual values are strong and replacement cycles are shrinking. Additionally, in the contract hire and leasing sector there has not been the level of acquisition and merger activity or company closures that some commentators predicted.

During 2012, fleet operators have become increasingly proactive in ”progressing” their fleet operations and are moving away from the retention of the status quo that they adopted during the depths of economic gloom.

Dave Parry, corporate sales director, Manheim

How was 2012 for your business?

As a business Manheim has made some significant business gains across all sectors – fleet, manufacturer and dealer accounts – which means we will sell more vehicles than we did in 2011.

We’ve seen strong growth in online sales with up to 20% of fleet stock selling to online buyers each month compared to 12-15% in 2011. The increase in online buyers is also bringing an uplift in sales values by an average of 37% compared to 2011.

How have you found the fleet market this year?

Back in 2008 and 2009 new fleet registrations fell away and many introduced longer-term rental deals or contract extensions. As a consequence there are fewer fleet vehicles entering the market. However, fleet vehicles are achieving strong residual values, so those with the stock to sell are making excellent returns.

What has been the major challenge?

By some margin this year our biggest headache has been sourcing enough stock to meet demand. The shortage is across the whole industry, which has had an impact on the volume of vehicles available across all remarketing outlets.

What has been pleasantly surprising?

The overall robustness of the market in 2012 has been a pleasant surprise to us, as well as the industry’s pragmatic reaction to what are generally seen as challenging conditions. It’s been interesting to see how many dealers and traders have changed their buying patterns to buy ”different” stock to maintain retail activity on the forecourt. This shows a real ”can do” attitude in today’s climate.

Will next year be better, or worse, for business?

Fleet vendors have indicated there will be less stock defleeting in 2013, therefore the challenge of quality used vehicle shortages will continue and prices are likely to remain high.

Richard Schooling, CEO, Alphabet

How was 2012 for your business?

2012 was a year of real progress and growth. By the end of December we will have grown our risk fleet to 113,000 vehicles, from 93,000 at the time of the merger with ING. Our integration programme for the two businesses is exactly where we planned for it to be at this stage, and it's on track to complete on schedule in mid-2013.

How have you found the fleet market this year?

I don't think it's been a year of huge change from the fleet operators' perspective.

Having said that, there were some improvements for fleets in specific areas. For instance the problem of long lead times on certain new cars has diminished greatly – partly due to manufacturers diverting allocations to the UK and away from currently weaker markets in continental Europe.

What has been the major challenge?

For us, the challenge has been around maintaining our very high service standards and moving forward as a business while managing a major internal change process. 

What has been pleasantly surprising?

I'm not sure whether anything about a recession year could be called pleasant. Even so, the resilience of the UK fleet and automotive sector is encouraging.

Will next year be better, or worse, than 2012 in business terms?

We are forecasting a similar growth pattern for Alphabet next year as we saw in 2012. Generally, there seems to be a bit more optimism around in fleet circles at the moment, though more so among private sector operators than in the public sector due to the Government’s austerity plans. The research for the next Alphabet Fleet Management Report shows a significant rise in expectations for increased fleet sizes and budgets next year.

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