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Anyone got a spare £1 billion per annum please?

Four simple questions:

  1. Do you ever sell used vehicles once owned by a Daily Rental company?
  2. Do you fully understand the Consumer Protection from Unfair Trading Regulations 2008 and the European Directive 2005/29/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council which it implemented?
  3. Have you read the supporting “Checklist for second hand car dealers” and understand the risks?
  4. Do you understand Trading Standards interpretation of the rules and checklist and have you taken action to counteract the subsequent negative impact that interpretation could have on used vehicle values?

If you answered no to any of the above then you need to start taking action quickly to mitigate the risks of a sizeable detrimental impact to your P&L, because the cost is currently running at £3,000-£4,000 per ex-rental vehicle.

The reason is because Trading Standards has declared war on the Daily Rental Industry?

Why they are doing this is due to what appears to be some totally unresearched opinion included in the checklist mentioned in question 3 above and produced by the former Office Of Fair Trading. The checklist says that dealers should review the history of a vehicle including "Is it an ex-business use vehicle which may have had multiple users (for instance, was it previously used as a rental, taxi or driving school vehicle)? ", implying that this somehow makes the vehicle less desirable and with it less valuable even though there is plenty of evidence available which totally contradicts this view.

Just last Friday we saw a Roadside (Garages) Ltd of Co Londonderry, a Vauxhall dealer, fined £3,000 plus costs in court after being found guilty of failing to inform the buyer of a Vauxhall Insignia that it was an ex-rental car, plus falsifying the customer signature on a sale document presented to Trading Standards. That is not hte highest fine i have heard but it is still a lot of money for one vehicle particularly as the checklist doesn't even say you should tell the buyer, just that you should research the vehicle's history and "find out the important information that your customers need to know.". In fact both the underlying Consumer Protection from Unfair Trading Regulations 2008 and the European Directive 2005/29/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council legislation don't even mention telling buyers who owned the vehicle previously, how it was used or why it is even relevant. Which mirrors the research I have on the key influenceing factors for used car buyers.

As an expert witness for the automotive sector I am coming across this legislation on an increasingly frequent basis and understand the merits and the importance of implementing new technology to make it easier for front line sales people to be able to prove to used vehicle buyers that the used vehicle they are buying has been loved and cared for and worth the price asked.

Accuracy in all aspects of a vehicle is key to supporting used values and whilst Trading Standards seem to have failed to grasp the factors behind what influences car buyers, and thus what impacts used values, they are right in saying  “Consumers should be provided with comprehensive and accurate information to help them make informed decisions when purchasing goods.” which was a quote from Sharon Muldoon of the Trading Standards Service.

The accurate description of not just the vehicle but how it has previously been owned, managed and loved is a key part of helping consumers to understand why an ex-rental car has not been thrashed and trashed but is actually a well maintained and looked after vehicle. A recent article in the Daily Telegraph also confirmed this view with Accident Exchange also adding that over 60% of its rental car claims were for just general bodywork repairs, i.e. dents and dings. The reason being that when drivers have to pay for damage they tend to look after things better, this applies not just to rental vehicles but also company cars and with the strict enforcement of return standards by the rental industry this mindset is even more at the forefront of the average rental vehicle user.

The challenge the automotive industry faces is how it gets those facts out to consumers. From what I have seen so far the best solution is a platform originally launching in Ireland and now expanding into the US, UK and Europe called Carandus.com. It provides a digital store for the maintenance and service history but more importantly it allows each successive owner to create a full digital archive of that car's life, from it's birth with the OEM through to it's ownership by a Rental Company, who will have fixed every flashing warning light, serviced it as soon as it needs it and never allowed it to run on low oil levels, through to its appearance at a dealership and then through the rest of its successive used life owners.

Whilst Carandus.com is not the only solution it is a perfect example of how the industry needs to change how it operates to meet the growing demands of consumers but more importantly  to offset the demonization of the rent-a-car business. With in excess of 300,000 vehicles sold per annum just in the UK to the daily rental sector and other short-cycle sales channels the cost of inaction even at £3,000 per vehicle is around £1 billion. Who will pick up that bill? Should it be the rental firms, OEMs, dealerships?

This really is one issue caused by unresearched and poorly guided opinions but which most definitely puts as all in this together.

 

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CV Bloggers

Dean Bowkett
Bowkett Automotive Consulting - Managing Director

Dean Bowkett is an experienced senior automotive executive with over 24 years' experience within the industry and he is a Fellow of the Association of Chartered Certified Accountants.

Having started in external audit he has worked in automotive manufacturing, full-service leasing, wholesale and retail financing, automotive data research and analysis plus retail automotive dealerships. His expertise includes product development (automotive vehicles and financial services), business strategy, residual value management, pricing and commercial operations. He has worked for and with a number of leading automotive and Financial Services brands including General Motors, Hyundai, Kia, MG Rover, Vauxhall/Opel, Nissan, PSA, Europcar, Hertz, Masterlease, Leaseplan, GE Capital, Lloyds Bank and GMAC/GM Financial.

He now provides consultancy services to the automotive industry via Bowkett Auto Consulting Ltd where he is able to call on his experience from spending almost five years as the Technical Director and Chief Editor for EurotaxGlass's Global Services Division before which he was the Group Chief Financial Officer for GMAC International's US$3 billion Discops division and a member of several supervisory boards, the division included 31 businesses spread over 25 countries, and before that he worked for MG Rover Group initially in new product development before becoming head of commercial finance for their UK NSC.

Dean is a keen advocate for the closer integration of data and information across the automotive industry to provide a more rounded view and thus enable better informed decisions to be made.

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