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ACCIDENT MANAGEMENT: New programme drives down cost of accident management

Date: 05 April 2012

Ford is rewriting the accident management rulebook with a new scheme that refuses to actively encourage personal injury claims, as Jack Carfrae discovers in conversation with the company's Paul McDermott

In December last year Ford introduced what it claims is a revolutionary new accident management programme for fleets.

Initiated by escalating costs and accusations of profiteering within the insurance and accident management industries, the Blue Oval's scheme operates with the intention of driving business elsewhere within the company, cutting costs within the industry and bringing down premiums.

Known as the Ford Accident Management Programme, the scheme eschews the now standard industry practice of encouraging personal injury claims. Those involved in accidents are asked if they have been injured, but as Paul McDermott, manager for collision repair marketing at Ford of Britain, explains, they are not prompted to claim: "If you don't induce the customer to try and make a claim then there's a big silence. There were three reasons for starting the scheme: to provide a hassle-free service, to reduce the cost for customers and to drive business to our centres."

The scheme was launched to retail customers in September 2011 and was piloted with the first fleet in December 2011, though so far only one fleet - Skillnet- has signed up. McDermott said that of the 599 customers (fleet and retail) who have reported an accident since the programme began only one has enquired about making a personal injury claim.

Accident management programmes like this could become more widespread as the industry recognises the benefits and fights back against ever-increasing insurance costs. According to McDermott, a number of other brands are in the process of developing similar ones: "There are four other manufacturers that are speaking to Innovation Group [the accident management specialists Ford works with] about adopting our idea, and it's great if it can reduce insurance costs. The more manufacturers that have this style of programme, the better."

With a little prompting, Ford's method has also been recognised by Parliament. "We've been to the House of Commons and presented it to MPs and we're now in the written evidence for the House of Commons Transport Committee's report on the Cost of Motor Insurance: Follow Up report as an industry blueprint," says McDermott.

Fleets that have their accident management catered for as part of a contract hire bundle are unlikely to benefit from Ford's programme, but it is of interest to those that handle it themselves or outsource it to claims management firms, not least because it's free. All fleets containing a Ford vehicle are eligible.

Drivers are given a single freephone number to call after an accident, and a smartphone app is available, which, once activated and registered with the user's details, guides them through the post-accident process and incorporates a GPS system that pinpoints the incident's location.

Cutting down on the amount of time a courtesy vehicle is in service for is another staple of the programme: "The average period of time that a credit hire car is out for is 18-19 days and the feeling was that this was being extended for profit. With us it's down to 8.6 days on average."

Ford has also undercut the industry standard courtesy car rate by charging a maximum 85% general terms and agreements (GTA) rate. "It works out at about £36 a day for a Golf- or Focus-sized car (on average within the industry) - and we knock 15% off this," concludes McDermott.