This story will sound very familiar to most of you fleet managers out there – even now it is becoming the norm. We, like you, order vehicles generally from our fleet and leasing company, who in turn place the order with a dealer, who then orders the vehicle with the spec and colour chosen with the manufacturer.

However, increasingly it is a bit of a guessing game as to what will turn up, if anything at all. 

There seems to be so many variables now, but remember, I haven’t been a Fleet manager for too long so this way of ordering vehicles to me – is literally the norm. You order a vehicle and are given a rough build week, which then changes in a matter of hours and generally goes on a few weeks. You are told it is price protected, which is fine, only to be told a few days later, it’s only price protected if it’s built before a certain Week Number. You ask what the new price could be, and more importantly how much more per month it will cost, and you generally don’t get an answer to that apart from how long a piece of string is – very helpful. So, if you don’t have an exact build date, you cannot guarantee a price and then you are hit with the fact that it might not have the correct specification.

We are then told that if it is going to be built between this week, and that week, it will be missing some standard specification. But, if it’s built between this week and that week, it is likely to have the correct specifications as per the brochure and price list, but it might also come with additional spec (at extra cost) because that’s what they are building that week.

The manufacturer then has to inform our leasing partner, who then has to break the news to me as fleet manager, and then I have to tell the driver the good, or usually, the bad news about their new vehicle. You don’t half feel an idiot informing them you have no idea what they will get, they think you’re completely useless and not doing the job properly, which of course we are, but so many things are now beyond our control.

Then you get drivers ringing you up, saying: “Are you sure you can’t get my new car or van? “My mate down the pub got a new car straight out of the showroom, only waited three days for it – so why can’t you get me mine in three days?” There are so many variables, it makes this difficult job doubly difficult.

The questions and problems I get calls about are sometimes just too ridiculous to answer. The other day a driver was out working, parked the car up to visit a customer, came out to find a pool of water under the car. They called me, refused to drive it, saying it had a serious water leak. I did explain this is normal when using air-conditioning, but they didn’t believe this idiot. They almost demanded a hire car and would not drive their leaking car. These are supposedly clever people, engineers, skilled and professional, who have little knowledge about how an air-con system works.

We had a car recently that decided to break down on the motorway, our breakdown company picked up the car and driver, and we thought that was it. Easy I thought, take the car to the nearest garage to be fixed, but no. It appears that breakdown assistance companies no longer do that. Instead, we as fleet managers must find a garage willing to accept a vehicle for repair, as many are just overloaded with work, and worse still, out of space to park another broken-down motor. Their service parking places are full of other broken-down cars waiting for parts, to fix them. I do understand though that the shortage of parts is improving now, but finding a garage to quickly repair an unusable vehicle is not improving. I can certainly understand why they are refusing new work and see why they are being so picky in what they take on-board, but that doesn’t help me, that ‘idiot fleet manager’.

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