Fleets are being warned to check the latest SMR forecasts before ordering vehicles following the switch to tighter emissions testing under WLTP regulations.

Stricter emissions rules mean some manufacturers have had to shorten service intervals in order to make sure their vehicles meet the new standards, which also include an in-life element to the tests under RDE. The result could mean higher servicing costs and vehicle down-time for some cars and vans under a return to shorter intervals.

The change in service lengths, which impacts diesel engines across many brands, was first highlighted by Fleet Assist, the company that provides services to leading contract hire and leasing companies and rental firms, and which has a network of more than 5000 franchise and independent service outlets.

Chris Crow, Head of Network, Fleet Assist

Chris Crow, head of network, Fleet Assist

Commenting on the changes Chris Crow, Fleet Assist’s head of network and technical services(pictured right), said: “Manufacturers are adopting different strategies with regards to vehicle service intervals post-WLTP regulation testing and that information is gradually being provided to us.

“Nevertheless, a clear general trend is emerging and that is that some diesel cars – as well as vans as they become subject to WLTP testing – look as though they will require more frequent servicing typically due to greater oil use. That will inevitably impact on fleet servicing costs and cause a rise in whole-life costs.

“Given the variability of service intervals across vehicle manufacturers and the influence of condition-based servicing, it is yet another issue that fleet decision-makers and maintenance managers in contract hire and leasing companies must feed into the WLTP-influenced decision-making process when selecting new vehicles.

“To date, we have received information regarding BMW, Ford and Mercedes-Benz reporting service interval reductions on diesel models as a consequence of the introduction of WLTP.

“There are no actions that can be taken to avoid what is a potential increase in fleet whole-life costs, because all vehicles should be serviced in line with manufacturer recommendations.

“However, in terms of mitigating the additional cost, fleet access to a network of garages with agreed competitive terms, coupled with an increased focus on work direction into the most appropriate garage on a car-by-car and van-by-van basis, becomes ever more important.”

Research by Company Car Today has found that brands including BMW, Ford, Mini, Nissan and Renault are impacted by these changes.

SMR Costs - image 2While many brands use variable service intervals, some of these have reduced their upper limit.

The changes have not been rolled out across all models, so fleets will need to check individual models and engines to know which cars are impacted and by how much.

According to documents seen by Company Car Today, BMW has told customers: “The more rigorous requirements and the legislation relating to the subject of Real Driving Emissions (RDE), which will apply in the future and come into force in stages, result in increased strain on the power unit. This increased strain requires a reduction of the maximum oil change interval.”

“BMW vehicles are subject to a system of flexible service intervals (condition-based service). Vehicle-specific intervals are calculated based on a various different parameters (eg conditions and type of use, such as urban traffic or motorway).”

“The current maximum mileage is 30,000 kilometres. In future the maximum mileage will be 25,000 kilometres. The existing maximum service interval of two years will continue to apply.”

The impact of the changes will also vary depending on the mileage of each contract. In BMW’s case over a 60,000-mile contract there’s no change to the number of services at three. However, if a BMW diesel is being run for 80,000 miles the number of services moves from four to five.

In the case of some Ford models there is an even larger impact. The service intervals for the new Focus 1.5 diesel move from 18,000 miles and two years to 10,000 miles and one year. This would mean an increase from three to six services over 60,000 miles and for an 80,000-mile contract this rises from four services to eight.

However, Ford says some of these services are only an oil change and don’t even need a filter change so should not add much to SMR costs.

Owen Gregory, director of fleet operations, Ford added: “We have adjusted some of our service intervals in diesel engines. The shift to the new emissions level puts greater demands on the engine powertrain systems and exhaust systems in different ways so they do have different servicing needs to the prior emissions tests.”

While the changes due to WLTP and RDE regulations only impact diesel engines, Fleet Assist’s Crow added: “We have also noticed recently a trend for some petrol-engined models to also be subjected to a service interval reduction.”

However, so far, it is not thought to be a widespread move for petrols.

Service Interval Changes due to WLTP & RDE

AudiNo change
BMWReduced on most diesels
FordReduced on some diesels
Jaguar Land RoverNo change
Mercedes-Benz*Reduced on some diesels
MiniReduced on most diesels
NissanReduced on some diesels
PeugeotNo change
RenaultReduced on some diesels
SeatNo change
SkodaNo change
VauxhallNo change
VolkswagenNo change

*Fleet Assist information


Tristan Young