Important information about in-car connected services
As a result of the growth and development of in-car technology in recent years, Neva Consultants have reviewed the ‘connected’ systems now offered by a number of manufacturers and assessed how best we can continue to deliver an industry-leading solution for our customers in light of recent developments.
WHAT ARE ‘IN-CAR CONNECTED SERVICES’?
In-car connectivity is an umbrella name which encompasses a range of technologies that allow devices and systems within a vehicle to connect with one another, as well as with other external or remote systems. Basic examples of such technologies which have been widely adopted in recent years include Bluetooth, audio streaming and DAB digital radio.
More recently, manufacturers have identified an opportunity to introduce more complex functionality through the use of connected applications. Such applications allow drivers to ‘connect’ with their vehicles through computer and smartphone apps, and can provide services such as breakdown/roadside, service reminders and service booking, diagnostic information and vehicle tracking.
The range of services available varies from manufacturer to manufacturer, and whilst some manufacturers may offer certain connected services for free, others may charge a fee from the outset or following an initial introductory period.
Manufacturers may ask the driver to sign terms and conditions that might not be considered appropriate or legally binding on the Fleet Manager or the owner of the vehicle (the leasing company) when they are not party to the contract.
In order to provide the very best possible service to our customers, Neva Consultants has taken the decision to opt out of any connected technologies which may conflict with the services we offer. This may include services such as breakdown/roadside assistance, accident services and the arrangement of any servicing or repairs.
We have been liaising with each manufacturer via our leasing partners to understand their individual connected technology systems and to advise them that Neva Consultants will not be utilising such systems. Feedback so far has been extremely positive with one manufacturer confirming that almost all leasing companies have adopted the same approach (i.e. opting out of such technology in their vehicles) in order for them to manage their customers’ driver experience in line with their contracted responsibilities.
In terms of the wider industry and the implications of connected technology systems, we have engaged in ongoing dialogue with both the BVRLA (British Vehicle Rental and Leasing Association) and the SMMT (Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders) to highlight our concerns. We will continue to work closely with industry bodies and update customers with any significant developments at the appropriate time.
WHY HAS NEVA CONSULTANTS DECIDED TO OPT OUT OF CERTAIN CONNECTED SYSTEMS?
We have, with our leasing company partners carried out a thorough and comprehensive review of the connected systems available and have concluded that the only way we can ensure customers receive the level of service they have to come to expect of Neva Consultants is by ensuring that our funders retain control of (and responsibility for) any third party service providers with whom they interact. This includes manufacturers, dealers, breakdown assistance providers, our replacement tyre provider and other third party service providers. The use of connected systems could give rise to the use of external service providers with whom we have limited or no experience and are therefore unable to guarantee service levels for our customers.
HOW DO CONNECTED SYSTEMS CONFLICT WITH SERVICES OFFERED BY THE LEASING COMPANIES?
Examples where connected systems could conflict with services offered (and thereby negatively impact service levels) include:
Breakdown/roadside assistance: Our service provides customers with a single point of contact throughout the life of their agreement, ensuring they receive the quickest recovery possible and a relief vehicle for 48hrs if required. Whilst this is included as standard on most maintenance agreements, it is doubtful that the same level of service can always be supported by manufacturers directly via connected technologies or in some cases could be a chargeable service. Furthermore, some manufacturer-led offerings may require sight of a driving licence or payment of a deposit – neither of which is a pre-requisite with our contracts. Additionally, should a vehicle fault not be remedied quickly, many of our funders have a vehicle downtime management teams who will work directly with the relevant manufacturer to expedite parts and/or repair, minimising the amount of time a customer’s vehicle is off the road.
Maintenance/servicing: For ad-hoc or routine maintenance we choose our service partners strategically, placing our vehicles on a case-by-case basis. Not only does this help to minimise vehicle downtime for our customers, but also allows the funder to manage costs as effectively as possible and thereby pass on those benefits to our customers through competitive SMR rentals. By leveraging the economies of scale that come with being the largest vehicle leasing company in the UK, we are able to pass on those financial and logistical benefits to our customers.
Tyres: In the case of tyre repair and replacement our leasing partners have direct agreements in place with major tyre providers, who are able to meet the needs of the vast majority of our customers immediately. Their unrivalled geographical coverage combined with a rigorous service level agreement enforced by the funder ensures that our customers have their needs met as quickly as possible and at a very competitive price. Utilising a franchised dealer through a manufacturer’s connected system may not only be more expensive, but the franchised dealer may also be unable to supply the required tyre(s) as quickly as our customer demands, leading to increased vehicle downtime.
Bespoke requirements: Our funders are able to cater for our customers with bespoke requirements in a way that may not be compatible with connected systems. For example, customers with specific relief vehicle requirements, explicit instructions on tyre replacement and limits to customer-induced faults can all be handled seamlessly by the funders dedicated teams.
The prevalence of connected technologies is expected to increase rapidly and we anticipate that the vast majority of manufacturers will introduce such systems over the coming months/years. As more and more manufacturers introduce such technology, we will also regularly review our approach to connected systems, putting the best interests of our customers at the heart of every decision we take.
As the situation regarding connected technologies is likely to remain fluid for the foreseeable future, our Consultants will maintain an ongoing dialogue with customers to help them understand and evaluate all options.
Q. Can manufacturers not switch off any conflicting services and thereby allow drivers to access only certain options (such as fuel level checking or vehicle pre-heating)?
A. We are currently investigating the feasibility of this with the individual manufacturers, though it would appear that for some manufacturers it is not possible to access only certain aspects of connected services. For example, Mercedes-Benz have confirmed that they cannot differentiate between individual services within their connected system. Other manufacturers such as Jaguar, Land Rover and Vauxhall are currently investigating whether this is possible.
Q. Have the funders communicated the rationale for opting out of connected services to the appropriate manufacturers?
A. Yes. To our knowledge, our funders work very closely with all major manufacturers and have already been in touch to discuss the subject of in-car connected technology. We will continue to liaise with our funders and manufacturers to review their current or future offerings and make suggestions as to how they can integrate with leasing company business models and data protection requirements.
Q. Can customers approach manufacturers directly to have connected services activated, or sign a separate agreement with the manufacturer to agree to their Terms & Conditions?
A. No. As the title and ownership of the vehicle belong to the funder, no such agreements can be entered into on their behalf.
Q. eCall – the emergency call system – will be mandatory for all new cars from April 2018. Will the eCall application which shares data with emergency services in the event of an accident be active?
A. Yes. As a mandatory safety feature on new cars from April 2018, eCall functionality will be activated irrespective of the utilisation of other connected services.
Q. Will the decision to opt out of connected systems mean customers will be eligible for a refund or a lower monthly rental?
A. No. All pricing is based on the fact that connected services will not be activated on any vehicles. If the funder had to be bound by any connected services on offer, it is highly likely that costs would increase and we would have to pass on the increased cost to our customers through increased monthly rentals.
Q. How can I tell if a particular vehicle/model has in-built connected technology?A. At present, manufacturers do not always include such details in the description of individual vehicles, making it difficult to highlight where this technology is in place. If you are unsure as to whether this option has been chosen, please contact your Sales Consultant. It is essential that this is checked as connected technology functionality will not be available on leased vehicles.