Fleet's top 20 websites ranked
09 December 2016
Author: David Motton
Things move quickly online. Forget motor-industry model cycles - a website that isn't improved and updated regularly will soon look about as high-tech as VHS and the fax machine.
This year's web survey shows that few websites are stagnating. And there's been a recognition that much online traffic is from smartphone users, with the majority of sites being slick and easy to use on a hand-held device.
What makes a good website for fleet customers? We looked for ease of use and clear navigation, while for small fleets the local dealer is often the main contact, so we assessed each brand's dealer finder feature. If the results could be filtered by the services provided, so much the better, and, ideally, the dealer finder included customer reviews to help pick a local franchisee with a good reputation.
There are times, though, when you want to speak to head office, so we looked at how easy it is to find contact details for the fleet team, both phone and email, and whether there was an 0800 number. We also wanted direct contact details for key individuals, and either emailed or used an online form to ask a simple query too, noting the time it took to get a response.
We also checked if P11D values appear in price lists alongside the retail price, or were included in a separate price list for business users.
Tax calculators are a key feature of any site aimed at business users, and as in previous years Carmen Data checked the numbers to make sure they add up. But a tax calculator was very much the least we wanted in terms of interactive features, and websites scored for other useful tools, and for worthwhile apps.
More credit was on offer for brands that make good use of social media, especially those in the small minority that have fleet-specific online profiles that promote more relevant content.
Finally, to arrive at our overall rating, we gave each of the 10 categories a mark out of five, added them up then doubled the score to reach a percentage figure.
1. Vauxhall - 88%
Vauxhall tells us there have been detail improvements to its tax calculator to make it more intuitive to use. Despite spotting one minor error, Carmen Data agrees that this area of relative weakness has been fixed. Otherwise Vauxhall's online offering for business users remains the one to beat.
There's a huge list of extra features and tools, and the Roadtrip app (which keeps tabs on business mileage and expenses) now has GPS tracking. We had a very quick response to our email query, too. However, Vauxhall hasn't posted on Facebook since May.
2. Peugoet - 86%
There haven't been any major changes to Peugeot's website this year, other than updating it to reflect new models and introducing online showrooms for models that are about to launch. Fortunately, there wasn't a lot wrong with Peugeot's site to start with.
Our biggest beef last year was the lack of response to our email. This time we had a response in 10 minutes, which was followed up (twice!) the next day. The tax calculator remains one of the very best, it's easy to find P11D values, and the smartphone website is excellent.
3. Nissan - 81%
Nissan has made big strides with its online offering for fleet users in recent years, and it's at the sharp end of this year's results. They certainly don't waste any time in Nissan's fleet team, and we had a response to our email in just 10 minutes.
We found P11D prices and BIK percentages, and the cost of ownership calculator gives a detailed overview of how a Nissan model compares with up to eight rivals. The site is slick and attractive, and that goes for the smartphone version, too.
3. Mercedes-Benz - 77%
Perhaps we're getting old, but some of the type on the Mercedes-Benz website would be easier to read if it were a little bigger. That said, there's no doubt this site looks very attractive. The tax calculator isn't quite as detailed as the very best, but it's not far off, and our number-crunchers found no mistakes. We had a response in around 90 minutes to our email query, and it's easy for businesses of different sizes to find the right person to contact. There are some handy extras, too.
4. Kia - 76%
Kia's website is bright and welcoming, and easy navigation means you can find what you are looking for quickly. The fleet team moves fast, too, responding to our query in six minutes. Shortlisting a suitable Kia is easy, and the same tool allows comparisons with competitors.
There's no fleet-specific social media but Kia as a whole keeps busy on Facebook and Twitter. More importantly, the tax calculator is one of the very best around. There are some very useful PDF guides to a variety of fleet topics, too.
6. Volkswagen - 75%
As last year, VW was slow to respond to our online query, taking three working days. What's more, the tax calculator may be accurate, but it's too basic to compete with the best, and we'd like to see specific contact details for members of the fleet department.
However, we're pleased that Volkswagen has a fleet-specific Twitter feed, and with separate price lists for retail and fleet customers it's easy to find P11D values and BIK percentages. There are some useful features, including PDF guides for fleet managers covering a variety of topics.
7= Audi - 74%
Last year, Audi's tax calculator had the dubious distinction of a minus score from Carmen Data. This year there are fewer errors, but they haven't been eliminated completely. Fuel benefit isn't handled correctly and the car isn't identified in detail on the summary page.
That's a shame because this is a good-looking site with some useful features, including a fleet comparison tool that shows an Audi's fleet credentials against three rivals. There's also a handy Mileage Tracker app available for iOS and Android.
7= Seat - 74%
Some more useful tools would help Seat's website challenge for top honours. It's a good site, but there isn't the breadth of content that Vauxhall offers. However, the tax calculator remains the one to beat by including pre-filled option prices, adjustment for annual and capital contributions and a whole lot more.
It can be used on a smartphone, too. P11D prices are easy to find, along with BIK percentages. There's an 0800 number for the business team, along with individual contacts, and we had an answer to our online query within 24 hours.
7= Toyota - 74%
Toyota has a tremendously detailed whole-life cost calculator, but you'll need to head to a Toyota centre to use it. We can understand that the company wants to get sales prospects through the showroom door, but we'd love to see this tool available more widely, especially as the tax calculator is very basic and contains errors.
You have to go looking a bit, but there are P11D values, BIK percentages and tax bills on the site, and there are a couple of handy apps aimed at business customers. We had a response to our query after 24 hours.
10. Renault - 73% - Most improved
Last year Renault's website lacked a tax calculator - surely an essential tool for a website aimed at fleet customers? This year there is a calculator, but it's very much of the no-frills variety. Otherwise there are some strong points.
The dealer finder gives customer ratings for each dealership and can be filtered to show only those franchisees geared up to deal with fleet customers. And Renault can take pride in the speed with which its team responds to emails - a response appeared in our inbox after two minutes, which we think is a record for this survey.
11= BMW - 71%
BMW wasted no time in responding to our email query, answering our question in just over an hour. Finding P11D prices and BIK rates was also speedy. There are some worthwhile extras too, including a car comparison tool that rates BMW models against rivals - you can enter the reg number of your own car to check if a BMW makes more sense.
The tax calculator is quite comprehensive but Carmen Data did spot an error. It's worth noting that smaller businesses are directed to the separate BMW and Mini Business Partnership website.
11= Fiat - 71%
Last year, Fiat was one of just two brands to do without a tax calculator. This year, it doesn't just have a calculator, it has one of the best around with comprehensive data and no sign of errors.
There's a full P11D price list giving the BIK percentages as well, and there's a range of informative tax guides in PDF form. There are still some foibles, such as the odd way two phone numbers are given for Fiat's business centre on the same page, but overall this is a big improvement.
13= Ford - 70%
Leave your mouse over the word 'fleet' on the home page and a drop-down menu appears, giving quick access to relevant content. Our favourite feature is the whole-life cost calculator, a useful way of comparing the cost metrics of several Ford models.
It's backed up by a very thorough tax calculator, and price lists that give a monthly tax bill for 20% and 40% tax payers (although oddly no P11D values). It's a shame more fleet content isn't easily available on a smartphone, and we wish Ford made it easier to find contact details for specific individuals.
13= Mini - 70%
It's all change for Mini this year, with a new design that's less quirky but more grown-up. For the most part we like what Mini has done, and it's now easy to find P11D values, BIK percentages and monthly tax liabilities.
We had a response to our email query in just over an hour, and there's a useful shortlisting tool. However, the tax calculator has too many errors, with some incorrect or missing CO2 figures and mistakes in the tax calculation. That's simply not good enough.
15. Hyundai - 68%
You click on pricing in the model-specific pages to find the CO2 output, BIK percentage and P11D value of any Hyundai. There's also a very useful shortlisting tool to narrow down the Hyundai range to a handful of suitable choices, and then compare them with rivals.
The tax calculator is reliable but not as comprehensive as some. Oh, and there's a handy PDF guide to fleet management by some obscure publication called BusinessCar. However, we had no response to the question we sent through the 'contact us' form.
16. Skoda - 66%
Last year, Skoda seemed to lose interest in social media in the wake of the VW emissions scandal. It's raised its head above the parapet again, and is quick to respond to comments. However, we are still waiting for a response to our email.
Price lists include P11D values and BIK percentages, and Skoda is one of the few brands to offer a truly useful app aimed at fleet customers: the Driver Connect App keeps track of journeys and expenses. And the tax calculator is excellent.
17. Land Rover - 65%
Land Rover's website looks slick, and it's easy to find your way around, too. The tax calculator is very good - Carmen Data found no errors. There are some useful extras as well, such as the car comparison tool (which rates Land Rover models against their rivals), the contract hire calculator and a PDF guide to financial products. The site shows contact numbers and email addresses for regional managers, but we had no reply to the message we sent through the 'contact us' form and we'd like some more useful apps.
18. Mazda - 64%
Mazda returns to our top 20 survey in place of Honda this year. If the brand wants to challenge the best, it's off to a respectable start. The highlight? Without a doubt the tax calculator, which Carmen Data found to be detailed, accurate and easy to use. In other respects, though, Mazda needs to work harder.
There are CO2 figures in the brochures but we couldn't find a P11D price list, and although finding the business team's contact details is easy there are no phone numbers or email addresses for individual members. The site is also rather light on useful extra features.
19. Citroen - 61%
This is one of the brightest and most colourful websites, and the attractive design is combined with instinctive navigation and ease of use. The dealer finder can be filtered to show business centres, and the dealers are given a customer rating once you have clicked through to the dealer's site.
There's one price list for the whole model range, and it shows BIK percentages and P11D values. However, the tax calculator is quite basic, we didn't have a response to our query when we filled out the 'contact us' form, and the mobile site needs more fleet content.
20. Volvo - 60% - Must try harder
With photography as moody as the opening titles of Wallander, Volvo's site is certainly stylish. Finding the fleet section takes a little more effort than with most sites ('Business and fleet' appears in a drop-down menu under 'Buy' on the home page), but it contains some useful content.
The comparison tool ranks a Volvo model against three rivals, and gives users the option of adding their own car. There are P11D values and BIK percentages in the price lists for business users, and some useful fact sheets. However, we had no response to our query, and the tax calculator is relatively basic.