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page 36 September 2011 5Chances are that anyone reading this will already have had a fair amount of exposure to the messages about cutting fuel costs - and some direct experience of the price increases over recent years. A huge amount of these messages revolve around the 'clean vehicle' technologies which are emerging: hydrogen, plug-in hybrids and electric vehicles, all with the promise of a better, cleaner tomorrow.Here in the UK (and across much of Europe) we are throwing money at all kinds of research and development (both in-vehicle and back-office technologies).But the very best of any of these will still take at least one whole replacement/operating cycle to become remotely effective for the whole UK fleet market. Sadly, in my view, very little - too little - is being done on optimising what we already have in operation. While we go on ignoring the vital aspects of a sound policy, corporate expectations, properly effective measurement and monitoring of fuel volume and costs, we fail to prepare the ground to exploit these technologies properly. A driver who refuses to be told to drive more economically in a business that doesn't think it can improve fuel performance seems unlikely to get the best out of any of the new technology. Perhaps even worse, if you issue vehicles with these new power units to drivers without any advice or training they might try to drive them the same way they have driven conventionally-fuelled cars. This takes these technologies out of their optimum performance window and totally negates the potential benefits.If this does happen, then fuel economy will not rise as expected so the obvious conclusion will be that "all that technology and expense was a waste of time". This totally undermines the core objectives of the strategy.The lesson is clear and simple: to make an impact on the fleet fuel budget, you need to start now.An effective fleet fuel policy is not difficult once the commitment is made. And it will show an immediate return - and prepare the way for full advantage of the new technologies as they come on board. By Stewart Whyte, Fleet AuditsSMALL FLEET MATTERS"To make an impact on the fleet fuel budget, you need to start now"Pendragon Contracts is launching a new strategy aimed at the small fleet market, which will see it exiting the traditional broker business channel. The company has recognised the value in dealing directly with the end-user clients in this sector which it expects both parties to benefit from, as it will eliminate the mark-up brokers typically apply and allow the client and provider to work together.To support this initiative, Pendragon Contracts is intro­ducing a new online, vehicle leasing quotation service designed to provide small busi­nesses with direct access to a wide choice of vehicles from all manufacturers. The site presents a diverse choice of vehicles, including LCVs, and has been designed to provide users with a quality retail experience. It is aimed at businesses with fleets of fewer than 30 vehicles. Neal Francis, managing director of Pendragon Contracts, said: "Over the last two years more and more smaller busi­nesses have struggled to obtain funding for their vehicles, and we have received a growing level of enquiries in this period that we've been successful in converting into customers. "The feedback from these customers has been very strong, expressing a clear desire and preference to deal direct with the leasing company and be serviced to the same high stand­ards that larger fleets enjoy, having an all-encompassing package of services. "We will now invest and target this sector directly while only working with a very small number of formal introducers, where we work as part of a tripartite arrangement with full access to the client."Mazda is targeting small busi­nesses in order to retain its fleet market share this year."Small fleet is a major priority for us and working in that area involves working with the dealer community very closely," said Steve Jelliss, fleet and remar­keting director at Mazda."We want to be sure that our dealers are well placed and well prepared to look after the local businesses which can be a very fruitful area for them."Business development managers are working with Mazda dealers to "enhance their ability to do business with SMEs in their area".Jelliss said that over the past few years Mazda had focused on more profitable areas of the fleet market which had resulted in reduced volumes. However, he said that strategy was in Mazda's interests and in the interests of its dealers."Our fleet market share is around 1.4% and I'd like to remain in that position during the current difficult times," he added.Pendragon Contracts exits broker business channelMazda's small fleet focusNeal Francis: targeting SMEs