Fleet's digital top 10
21 November 2018
Author: Jack Carfrae
It's crunch time for the top ten manufacturers' websites, as Jack Carfrae logs on to independently assess their fleet and business pages.
Digital shelf lives are up there with dairy products, as it doesn't take long for anything on the internet to go out of date. BusinessCar's survey of the top ten manufacturer websites shines a light on brands that have made a serious effort to keep their fleet and business pages as fresh as possible and, crucially, packed with useful content relevant to decision-makers
Our assessment covers the top ten manufacturers in terms of fleet sales according to 2017 SMMT full-year data. We analysed ten different areas of each firm's website and allocated scores from one (lowest) to ten (highest) in every category, to generate an overall percentage, though we gave two manufacturers joint lowest scores of one point in three categories where the elements in question were equally bad or completely lacking.
Ease of use/navigation was our first port of call. We used a key vehicle's P11D value - or at least retail price - as a barometer, commending those that locate it in obvious places, while access to key fleet figures such as BIK and CO2 was also considered. Though style over substance is a problem for some slick-looking sites, design still impacts a user's willingness to remain on the page, so we awarded points for a sharp layout.
Dealers are likely to be smaller fleets' first point of contact, so we judged the locator tool on how easy it was to find and whether it offered filters (even better if they were business-specific) and customer reviews. In-house contact details are also important and manufacturers that make their fleet personnel directly accessible via email and phone got our vote, while those that keep them under lock and key were penalised.
Any fleet website worth its salt should offer a company car tax calculator, and our resident tax expert, Carmen Data, crunched the numbers to establish the accuracy and effectiveness of each one. We also sent an email to every manufacturer via the address or submission form listed on the website, asking a simple question about one of their bestselling models; ratings were based on speed of response and accuracy/helpfulness of the reply. Where available, we used fleet-specific email addresses, rather than the generic 'contact us' option.
To stick with the times, our examination included social media feeds, praising those with content that was fleet-specific, useful or anything other than self-promotional. We also searched for any smartphone apps offered by each manufacturer and scored them on similar criteria, and checked out the mobile version of each site, gauging its ability to present content in a succinct format. Finally, we looked at extras, as anything out of the ordinary with a focus on fleet went down well with us.
1. Vauxhall - 93%
Vauxhall scored nothing less than eight out of ten in each category and received full marks for half of them; put simply, its website is more geared to fleet users than any other manufacturer's. Fundamental elements such as P11D and CO2 figures are glaringly obvious, the dealer locator has 15 different filters, some business specific, and contact details are extremely comprehensive. Vauxhall topped the app category, too, as its Roadtrip offering is aimed squarely at company car drivers and managers. It was also the second-fastest email responder - we had a reply within 14 minutes with heaps of detail - has the third-best tax calculator of the top ten and there is even a series of YouTube videos explaining key fleet terms.
2. Volkswagen - 62%
As clean and businesslike as you'd expect, VW's fleet pages are smart and easy to navigate. You have to download a price list to access key cost figures, but they aren't difficult to find, while the dealer locator is a highlight, courtesy of 11 different filers including local business and 25-plus fleet specialists. There are five apps and plenty of impressive extras, including vehicle selection and fleet management tools, along with a range of different cost calculators and a fine mobile conversion. It's let down by the contacts section, which has names and pictures of specific personnel but only generic email addresses and phone numbers - and the company failed to respond to our enquiry via its online form.
3. Nissan - 60%
Flashy it isn't, and many competitors are visually sharper, but that doesn't detract from the Nissan website's brilliantly no-fuss nature in both desktop and mobile formats. It has the most accessible and useful contacts page of any top ten website; it's one click from the fleet homepage, lists every individual with a direct mobile number and email address, and they're even categorised by dealer, corporate, lease and rental. Nissan was also the fastest email responder, supplying us with a concise answer in 13 minutes. The downside is the general lack of extras and its tax calculator, which, jointly with Hyundai, is the worst of the top ten, because it just shows blanks at the end of the calculation.
4. Toyota - 58%
Toyota's website also favours function over form, as you can find the entire range listed with P11D values and BIK figures two clicks from the homepage, and there are ample details for in-house fleet personnel. It's good to see a cluster of extras aimed at fleets, such as the company car costs video, business-specific brochures and extensive hybrid section, while Toyota is verybig and reactive on social media. At three days, the email response could have been quicker (the auto reply said it would take less than one) and the calculator is just a downloadable pdf with vehicles listed in order of tax, so it's quite hard to find a particular car. The firm is planning a new comparator and sharper navigation, though.
5. Mercedes-Benz - 54%
Mercedes' site is a tale of two halves: brilliant in some respects and lacking in others. Carmen Data dubbed its tax calculator the best of the top ten and the classy black background sets it apart from industry-standard white. The list of direct contacts and slick mobile site are also among the highlights; however, there's little in the way of extras. It's really quite difficult to locate the price of a vehicle and the dealer locator has no filters or customer reviews. Mercedes told us the site "isn't where we want it to be" and is due a complete change around the turn of the year, with the addition of a 'fleet customer hub page' to answer driver and manager queries.
=6. Kia - 49%
Kia's website isn't hard work in the slightest, as the business-specific range pages display the likes of P11D and BIK for every model. As with Nissan and Toyota, it's sensible rather than stylish, but the neat and logical format makes it easy to stay on the page, while the dealer locator has nine filters and independent Revoo reviews for each outlet. The manufacturer was the fourth-fastest email respondent, coming in less than half an hour, and also sports the fourth-best tax calculator of the top ten. It's let down by solely generic fleet contacts, its lack of an app and social media that seems more to do with cricket than cars - but the latter two are arguably superficial elements.
=6. BMW - 49%
There's a solid fleet focus to BMW's website and thought has definitely been given to both large corporate customers and smaller businesses. Its strengths are extras, for which it scored top marks, as there is an enormous amount of additional content such as Q&As, explanations of fleet terms/figures and distinct sections relative to the type of business you operate. BMW was also the third quickest on email, supplying us with a response and a link to a brochure in 26 minutes. If only key figures such as prices didn't require you to exit the fleet section, it would be so much better, and there isn't an abundance of contacts. A so-so dealer locator and purely promotional social media also count against it.
8. Audi - 48%
Audi's website is the swankiest of the lot and so fresh from its redesign that it was in beta form during our assessment. The Mileage Tracker app is second only to Vauxhall's in terms of appropriateness for fleets, while direct contact details, though limited to email addresses, are easy to find and there are decent extras, including a mini fleet FAQ. You have to use a calculator or leave the fleet section if you want to find the price of a car, though, and the dealer locator isn't obvious, and lacks filters and reviews. Social media is too focused on posh pictures and lifestyle to be useful, but we're told a new contract hire and leasing section is due in the near future.
9. Ford - 42%
The tax calculator and social media are Ford's strongest suits, as it scored nine out of ten for each. The former was only five points shy of top marks in Carmen Data's analysis and the latter includes YouTube videos addressing contract hire and LCVs for business. The dealer locator isn't bad either, as you can search for fleet and rental specialists, among other elements. Ford's is the most drab website by some margin, though, which is obvious on both desktop and mobile formats, while the lack of a response to our email and promise of "the largest team in the industry" on the contacts page - which actually contains nothing more than generic phone numbers and email addresses - are let downs.
10. Hyundai - 32%
Hyundai's website is rather convoluted and spreads a lot of information over different pages and tabs. That said, it isn't too hard to dig up P11D values, so if the presentation were more concise, it could rank higher. There's nothing in the way of apps and, along with Nissan's, the tax calculator was joint worst of the top ten manufacturers. There are individual fleet contacts but all you get is a name and a generic phone number/email address; social media is the strongest element, with honest reposts of external content on Twitter and Facebook. We received a reply to our email in three days but it didn't answer the question and told us to look at the website or ask a dealer.
Best of the rest
Though the ten bestselling fleet manufacturers take centre stage, we examined the best and the worst of the top 20 websites. Top marks go to Seat and Fiat, which scored 39 out of 40 in Carmen Data's analysis of their respective tax calculators, rendering them joint first with Mercedes. Seat has also put in a lot of work behind the scenes during the past year, gearing its site much more towards fleets, SMEs and company car drivers, and it continues to promote its four-day fleet test drive online.
It's a shame, then, that fellow Volkswagen Group brand Skoda hasn't taken a leaf out of its sister company's digital book, as it scored zero in Carmen Data's assessment that, along with Honda, Hyundai and Nissan, puts it joint bottom in terms of the effectiveness of its online tax calculator. However, in Skoda's favour is arguably the most accessible set of direct fleet contacts, as some regional managers' photos are on the fleet homepage and the full list is a click away.
Peugeot is one to mention, as it received a brand-new business website encompassing cars and vans earlier this year, which marks a drastic improvement on the former pages. Volvo also deserves a nod, as its site oozes the same style as the brand's current range and includes a digital business magazine, an explanation of plug-in hybrids for fleets and a public sector area. Land Rover's offering is also among the smartest and includes useful extras such as a contract hire cost calculator and a car comparator that allows you to see how the firm's models measure up against rival vehicles; however, the tax tool is let down by old data. Perhaps surprisingly, given the brand's flair for style, Fiat's fleet pages aren't what you'd call flash, but they're very straightforward and easy to navigate.
While they do the job, Citroën, Honda and Renault's websites are showing signs of age, and each one could benefit from either additional features or a refreshed design.