A full-price Renault? Some joke, right?
20 February 2008
The Insider is a fleet manager with years of invaluable experience
No fleet manager would buy it, and neither did the judge, writes Insider
Renault UK really has made an ass of itself taking its fleet partner to court.
The story, in case you missed it from the last issue of this mag, was essentially this: Renault had been offering discounts to members of an airline pilot association in the UK via a firm called Fleetpro Technical Services. The guy behind Fleetpro got greedy and widened his customer base by offering the discount cars to brokers, who sold them on to the general public. Renault twigged after 217 cars were sold through the affinity scheme over 10 months. Turns out only three had gone to pilots, so Renault took the Fleetpro guy to court to claim back lost revenue.
So far so understandable. Except, of course, to fleet managers like me. Renault was pursuing £700,000, which translates into roughly £3300 per car. Now I've done my fair share of Renault deals in my time, and that sounds almost exactly the discount I'd expect in return for my business. Same if I was a private punter in a dealership. 10 minutes of teeth sucking and trips to the back office "to okay it with my manager" should do it.
The judge thought the same way. Renault might be seething at the double-dealing fleet guy, but the company did sell cars off the back of his entrepreneurship. Perhaps in America they could claim for wounded company pride, but here the case was rightfully dismissed. The judge said Renault had, understandably, failed to prove any loss and had actually profited.
“There's a gulf the size of Siberia between brand image and the grubby practice of actually selling the metal.”
More interesting was the judge's comment that he believed two Renault fleet sales employees had either known what was going on or simply ignored it. A similar affinity scheme with Microsoft was cited that had generated just five sales in three years (oh dear, oh dear).
This nicely illustrates what we in the fleet business have known for years and years: that there's a gulf the size of Siberia between image and the grubby practice of actually selling the metal. Renault could have argued with some relevance that this backdoor discounting venture hurt its residuals, but then anybody wearing a Renault identity badge knows the company wouldn't sell half as many cars as it does without discounting. The brand is a favourite with the brokers, dodgy or otherwise, who regularly hook up customers with dealers offering discounts of 15% or more.
Maybe Renault only set out to stop this firm, and possibly others in the future, taking advantage of selective discounts to preferred groups, rather than to win compensation. But it certainly reminds us all of the iniquity of paying company car tax based on an entirely fictitious list price.