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Value for money is key - but guard against upsellingSome franchised dealers are competing with the independent sector, but some are giving the illusion of competing, but are attempting to justify upselling, according to FSG's Bailey-Watts."While the headline service and repair price may be aggressive, dealers will look for every opportunity for work to be undertaken on a vehicle and upsell spare parts to the unwary to compensate for lost profit in other areas," he says.To guard against such opportunism, FSG recommends small fleets have a watch list of parts that are not allowed to be fitted or work undertaken without prior authorisation. This includes wiper blades, the sterilisation of air conditioning and heating vents and fluid level refills."If you are running a small fleet then you should have someone with a degree of mechanical understanding to review SMR costs otherwise garages and their staff can be quick to take advantage of the situation and undertake work that may not be required," he says.Limited knowledge of fleet management and maintenance in the majority of cases is the reason why experts recommend that small businesses - even if they buy vehicles through franchised dealers - outsource SMR work to organisations with a proven track record.However, even for FSG there remains problem areas that must be watched. Bailey-Watts says: "Some dealers will use their mechanical know-how to bamboozle the average customer."He highlights how a dealer may recommend the replacement of a vehicle's brake pads and discs to the company car driver even though no problem had been flagged."The driver is immediately spooked by the suggestion and wants the work undertaken, which on an upper-medium car could cost £1,000," says Bailey-Watts. "We are caught in the middle and even though we suspect the work is not required we do not want to compromise driver safety so we have to spend the money. But that does not apply to all franchised dealers who are after customer longevity and that means providing a sensible value for money service."Many of the major leasing and fleet management companies have negotiated national pricing with franchised dealers. Additionally, manu­facturers have put in place their own fleet national pricing programmes partially designed to iron out labour rate differentials across the UK.Montacute says: "An independent's labour rate is often lower than a franchised dealer, although businesses that contract hire vehicles may benefit from franchised fleet national pricing which can bring them into line with the independents."But she advises: "Before opting for a particular supplier, it is important to understand the total costs associated with any maintenance or repair work. While labour costs may be cheaper with one supplier than another, there is no guarantee that the final invoice will follow suit, as labour times and the price of parts can vary significantly. "Selecting the wrong supplier can be an expensive mistake with botched work often costing more to rectify than the initial problem."While FSG uses its network of independent garages for a significant volume of SMR work, it insists those garages use manufacturer OE components. It also monitors all work to ensure compliance with manufacturers' specification.But Hardy adds: "We use franchised repairers for more than 95% of our service and maintenance needs. We will use independents for high-mileage work where it would help the client, but these instances are a rarity. Our clients and their drivers prefer this policy and it is one of the reasons we win business from those that take an opposite stance."Continues from page 17"Using the wrong supplier can be an expensive mistake with botched work often costing more to rectify than the initial problem"Angela Montacute, operations director, Arval March 2011 19Fleet management Service, maintenance and repairContinues on page 21

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