Corporate Fleets and maintenance: is it worthwhile for mechatronic technicians?
Considering the virtuous and sustainable scenario in which mobility is trying to move, corporate fleets could provide interesting opportunities for our top aftermarket (mechatronics) players. But is it really such a great opportunity?
Stefano Belfiore - Inforicambi
Car rental schemes and companies grow relentlessly throughout the country. The latest overview provided by Aniasa (National Association of Automotive Rental Industry and Automotive Services) returns a clear picture of this growing phenomenon in Italy: in the face of a decline in registrations (-1.42% in February), rentals soared reaching 54,000 vehicles last month. A giant leap forward of 30, 50 and 119 percent compared to the February 2016-2014 period, according to Confindustria figures. According to Aniasa, the most interesting projection concerns long-term rentals: the segment that seems to attract most of the interest from private individuals.
Firms prefer rentals
Still according to Aniasa, corporate car sales exceeded a 40 percent share (22% back in 2009). The registrations of new cars acquired by rental and leasing companies marked an overall increase (companies, rentals and leasing) of 22.5 percent and gained a 43.6 percent share of the entire market. Companies, largely responsible for short, medium and long-term rentals, expressed the most significant growth rates during 2017, making the most of tax advantages associated with super-depreciation schemes.
Opportunities for the aftermarket
Considering the virtuous and sustainable scenario in which mobility is trying to move, corporate fleets could provide interesting opportunities for our top aftermarket (mechatronics) players. But is it really such a great opportunity? First of all there is a minimum common denominator: it’s an important non-core business (at least for now) for workshops. According to Alessandro Angelone, National President of Confartigianato Autoriparazione and owner of Como-based AutoEuropa Import, mechatronics can hardly be considered a core business. "At present - he explains - I believe that the urgency for all car repairers is to measure up to the specific technologies that identify each car". A rate of innovation that opens the door to new working methods: predictive diagnosis, augmented reality, tele-diagnosis and other techniques (in addition to multiservice) that are now the real litmus test of a workshop’s competitiveness. "Sure, working on corporate fleets - he continues - , where in most cases it’s a matter of working on new cars, means, in my opinion, developing important skills, thus reinforcing an overall professional growth enhancing the skills required to keep pace with today’s innovations" . But not only. This will also positively impact the workshop's brand awareness. "Which translates in opportunity - Angelone points out again - to generate new business as an increased number of motorists discover the workshop". Simone Guidi, director of the Arval network (a 20-year old long-term rental company specialized in managing corporate fleets), identifies additional benefits for mechatronic technicians. "Fleets – he highlights - must be considered as a great customers for a workshop. A sort of accredited enhancer for the whole business". An important link, therefore, for a greater endorsement of the activity, hence a greater reputation. Essential if one is to generate any profit.
The other side of the coin
As expected, along with the pros there are also a few cons. Two 'limiting' factors, might prompt many to consider this activity as a mere “sidekick” of routine repair operations: disadvantaged rates on agreed labour costs as well as the compulsory use of spare part dictated by the fleets with very narrow margins (if non-existent) for the mechanics, as pointed out by Angelone.
After all, the expected evolution of this sector is huge. 800 thousand company cars are currently regularly circulating on our roads. A drop in the bucket that could grow out of proportion due to the soaring trend of domestic rentals. Even though, authorized repair networks might understandably charge higher prices (in terms of labour/spare-parts costs) compared to independent specialists, Guidi makes no distinction between those who can make the best use of this service. "The important thing here – he says – is to be qualified. For quality I mean multi service workshops, in line with European models, solid, financially sound, as well as affiliated to an important network. All parameters that we, at Arval, take into due consideration when we select and identify the workshops we consider to be more competent in their field of expertise". The game, therefore, is not played between OES and IAM specialists, but on the ground of efficiency and professionalism.