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Afternoon round-up: New Vehicle Consulting MD, car prices rise, customer service improvements

New Vehicle Consulting MD

Lee Wolstenholme - Vehicle Consulting, MDLee Wolstenholme has been promoted to the role of managing director at least company Vehicle Consulting.

Wolstenholme, previously a director at the Stockport-based brand, has been with the company since 2000.

He takes over from co-founder of the company, Simeon Briggs, who has retired, while Craig Davy – who has been with the company since 2006 – has been promoted to the role of business development director.

Prior to joining Vehicle Consulting, he was an area manager at vehicle financing company Capital Bank Motor.

Car prices rise by 38% in last decade

Automotive data analysists Cap HPI have claimed the average price of new cars has increased by 38% in the last decade.

A decade ago, the average car cost £24,383, rising to £33,559 this month.

New cars

The firm attributed the rise to manufacturers offering more technology on vehicles than 10 years ago, doing away with low-specification variants and the growth of PCP offers.

“PCP has shifted focus from the entry price to the monthly repayment and having a model to advertise as ‘From £9,995’ is no longer a priority – cars are more likely to be advertised on their monthly payment,” said Matthew Freeman, managing consultant at Cap HPI.

Merc plans customer service improvements

Mercedes-Benz is looking to maintain its market leading position in premium fleet registrations this year through an improved customer experience offer.

Mercedes fleet boss Rob East told Company Car Today that the market had been tough in 2017 and is expected to continue that way in 2018.

Mercedes C-Class 2018

However, he claimed that despite an overall market that is running down 5%, Mercedes’ fleet and business registrations were up in the first 11 months of the year.

“The market has been tough and has toughened more than anyone expected. When we did our planning for 2017, we were always pretty prudent. Nevertheless, in a fleet market that’s back 5%, we’re still showing growth of 2%. For us, it’s all about sustainable sales growth and about the relationship with end users,” he said.

East blamed political uncertainty for the conditions, particularly with Brexit and the Budget.

However, he pointed out that the growth did not include Motability sales or daily rental. And while he wouldn’t directly answer recent criticism of Mercedes, he did say that only 6-7% of Mercedes’ non-retail sales went to daily rental and that most of these were in the first half of the year.

Rob East, Mercedes head of fleet, 2017East (pictured right) wouldn’t be drawn on a prediction as to where the firm would be in a year’s time, but did add: “Our planning for next year is prudent.”

He also added that 2018 would be helped by the introduction of an all-new A-Class mid-year, replacing the brand’s biggest-selling model in the company car sector (pictured, below).

East said his plan for 2018 is to focus on areas including customer loyalty and experience, connected cars and alternative fuels.

“For us it has been about maintaining our position as the number one premium brand in fleet – if you look at just fleet and business sales.

“We recognise the shift in the market and that end users want a broader choice in terms of powertrains.”

Mercedes will also introduce a diesel-electric plug-in hybrid powertrain in the E-Class and C-Class ranges later in 2018.

“The other part of our strategy is around connected cars. We recognise that lease companies, fleets and end users want to communicate with their car in a slightly different way now. In Q1 or Q2 a ConnectBusiness app will be launched. It will be a much broader app – almost a full-suite telematics package. We’ll see some major benefits for the lease company or fleet,” he said.

“The final element of our strategy is all around customer experience and loyalty. End users buy with a retail mentality. So we have to make sure that at every touch point they have an exemplary experience. That’s also why we’re about to launch a 48-hour test drive campaign.