- Published: Tuesday, 13 June 2017 00:14
Being a corporate fleet customer means making an important business decision, but retailers like Volkswagen Group Singapore are helping clients long after they make their choice...
SINGAPORE — If buying a car is a huge decision in Singapore, imagine what it must be like to buy a dozen.
Yet, in many ways buying a few cars at once can actually be less difficult or stressful than buying just one — but only if you work with a car dealer that’s well-versed in the needs of corporate fleet customers.
It’s worth pointing out that fleet sales involve a single purchaser buying cars. It doesn’t count if you gang up with friends and try to score a group discount, the technical term for which is “trying your luck”.
The upside is, you don’t even have to buy a dozen cars to count as a fleet customer, at least at Volkswagen Singapore. That’s just one of the useful things to know about its corporate fleet sales. Here are more:
“Fleet buys are usually done by business owners who need to acquire two or more vehicles for their company’s operational needs,” says Serena Wong, Fleet Sales Manager at Volkswagen Group Singapore.
If your car dealer is set up to service fleet customers properly, you can build your fleet from any number above one, in other words.
Nor do you have to procure your fleet all at once: “We understand that companies’ fleet purchase or replacement cycles can be spread out and grow over time as their business expands,” adds Wong.
Fundamentally, the right approach to fleet sales isn’t just one that is predicated on the idea that buying more cars entitles a buyer to special treatment, but on the idea that the customer and the fleet provider are business partners. That’s the way things are done at Volkswagen, explains Wong.
IT HELPS TO HAVE...
Being a fleet customer isn’t about having the financial firepower to splash out on a truckload of cars. Instead, it’s about flexibility — whatever the size of a company, having control over how to deploy capital (or how not to tie it up) is crucial.
Companies do purchase cars, of course, but leasing is an attractive option, too — it reduces all the calculations of car ownership to one steady monthly payment.
That makes the cashflow predictable, and the amount can be expensed as a cost of doing business. It also avoids the need to expend capital on a hefty down payment for a purchase.
At Volkswagen, lease terms also bundle cars with insurance, road tax and even servicing costs. That’s one example of how to make expenditure on a fleet of vehicles smooth and manageable, which makes cashflow much easier to handle.
A leasing contract can from also be tailored to a specific timeframe. That lets companies operate their fleet with clear start and stop dates.
The bottom line? A fleet should help build your fortune, not cost you one from the start.
YOU CAN ORDER...
Have you ever had an off-menu item in a restaurant because you’re pals with the chef, who knows your tastes well? Being a fleet customer is sometimes like that.
“We are able to customise certain equipment packages or installations for customers who require a more complex vehicle, or recommend a basic one for those who only require a vehicle for simple operations,” says Wong from Volkswagen.
This goes back to the model of fleet provider as business partner: a willingness to tailor a fleet to your needs is much better than a seller that tries to convince you to tailor your needs to what’s in his inventory of cars.
UP WITH UPTIME, AND...
A fleet of cars can only add value to a business’ operations when it’s on the road. There are two things a fleet owner to can do to maximise this.
The first is to choose vehicles that need less servicing. “We have tailored our service packages with the needs of our fleet customers in mind. That’s why our vehicles come with 15,000km and 20,000km service intervals, for passenger and commercial vehicles respectively,” says Volkswagen’s Wong. “That allows for less time in the workshop and more time on the road.”
The second is to work with a fleet provider that prioritises your business. “We can tailor priority servicing time slots for our fleet owners to ensure minimal disruptions to their day-to-day business operations,” says Wong.
Even if a stroke of bad luck hits one of your vehicles, you can mitigate the disruption with help from with the right retailer. Volkswagen’s fleet customers enjoy 24-hour roadside assistance, for example, so they’re never left high and dry.
But vehicle downtime isn’t the only consideration. The less you have to service a car, the less you spend on maintenance, so the relatively long service intervals of Volkswagen vehicles pay off in the long run.
“Managing maintenance costs is also an important cost-saving aspect of fleet purchase decisions,” advises Wong.
That brings us to our next point, which is that...
One key consideration of being a fleet owner is that the costs of running a given car are multiplied across your entire fleet. Conversely, that means choosing a car that offers crucial savings can lead to meaningful cost reduction for the entire fleet.
A Volkswagen Jetta TSI consumes 1,200-litres of petrol over 20,000km, for example, while a popular Japanese rival needs 1,340-litres (according to their respective data sheets).
That might not sound like much, but assuming a pump price of $1.995 for petrol, if your fleet of 10 cars covers that distance each in one year, choosing the Volkswagen would save $2,793.
Throw in the difference in savings from road tax from a small 1.4-litre engine in the Jetta (against the 1.6-litre norm), multiply them across your fleet, and… you get the idea.
“We help customers look into the total cost of ownership in the long run,” instead of just the upfront purchasing price,” says Wong from Volkswagen. “It’s important to take into consideration relevant factors like vehicle downtime, planned maintenance costs and projected usage costs, to ensure that the customer is getting the most cost-effective fleet solution.”
BUY VEHICLES, GET...
Some companies have fleets large enough to warrant a full-time employee in charge of managing the vehicles. “The role of a fleet manager is important since he or she oversees the buying and selling process of company vehicles, as well as the maintenance and servicing schedules,” advises Wong. “Their role is to keep the operations running smoothly while managing operating costs to maximise return of investment.”
The next best thing, however, is to work with a service provider that can help a company with fleet management. At Volkswagen, for example, fleet buyers have a dedicated account manager to help with decision-making, and to generally ensure that the customer gets the most out of their vehicles.
“As fleet consultants, we work closely with our customers and their fleet managers to achieve their business goals together. For some companies, we sometimes play the role of their fleet manager,” says VW’s Wong.
Volkswagen Group Singapore's Fleet Sales Manager Serena Wong (centre) says that being a fleet customer is about more than buying a bunch of cars. Priority service and management assistance should be a part of the package, too
In other words, like any company asset, a fleet of vehicles can contribute to business operations best if it is properly managed. All the more reason, to choose not just the right vehicles, but the right corporate retailer. It’s one thing to acquire a fleet of cars, and quite another to gain an active partner as concerned about growing your business as it is about growing its own sales.
This Special Feature is presented by Volkswagen Group Singapore