We bang the drum for fleet safety a lot here at Automotive Fleet. It’s an area of top concern for most of our readers and for most of the suppliers that do business with them. We’re at a unique place in the evolution of the vehicle where the technology has actually outpaced the government’s ability to legislate. Over the past few decades we have seen items such as seat belts (hard to believe they were options at one point), air bags, ABS brakes, and soon back-up cameras, all undergo the evolution from high priced options to legislatively mandated content on every vehicle.
Our manufacturers and our technology suppliers are making huge strides in safety. The pace of development is increasing as everyone is focusing on ways to keep drivers, and everyone in the path of the vehicle safer. We’ve got lane departure warning systems, back-up alarms, adaptive cruise control, early warning systems designed to give the driver a heads up about dangerous conditions ahead among others.
As usually happens, these options go to the highest contented vehicles first because they are expensive. No one wants to add $3,000 in options to an $18,000 sedan. You can do it to a $75,000 sedan and people won’t be shocked, though. It’s a tried and true method. But something different is happening this time. Fleets, in particular, are demanding safety options on all trim levels, even the basic “fleet” package. And, the manufacturers seem to be listening.
This is a chance for fleet managers to take a leadership position. You are going to pay a little extra, but your drivers will be safer. Your risk management department will certainly support your position. Your insurance provider will be happy, too. And, perhaps best of all, your CEO will appreciate the fact that you advocated for the extra safety content when you take those vehicles to the auction.
Three or four years down the line, every new vehicle is going to have a back-up camera, a back-up alarm, and a host of other sonar, radar, and other early warning devices to protect people. The American car buyer is going to be conditioned to look for and depend on all of these new products. If your fleet vehicles are properly equipped, you’ll have a huge leg up on the competition in the used-vehicle market.
Imagine trying to sell a car today without seat belts; or, maybe without air bags or ABS brakes. You’d be lucky to give such a vehicle away in the auction lanes. And, if you look some years down the road you can see the same mentality with the newest in-vehicle safety systems. Take a leadership position with your purchasing staff and with your suppliers today and you won’t have to worry about your vehicles being too dated to sell. And you might save a few lives along the way too.
It brings to mind the old Fram oil filter ads. The mechanic used to walk out and look at the camera and say, “You can pay me now or you can pay me later.” The only risk to paying now is that your cap cost will go up a bit. The risk of paying later is exponentially higher.