Overall, passenger car maintenance costs per unit increased less than 1 percent in calendar-year 2015. These costs include unscheduled repair services, preventive maintenance (PM), tires, and replacement rentals.
In particular, there were five fleet car maintenance trends that were the primary influencers of maintenance costs in calendar-year 2015, which are identified by Chad Christensen, strategic consultant, and Frank Stracke, case manager, managed maintenance, both of whom work for Element:
- Inconsistent tire size labeling, which has resulted in under-load tires being installed.
- Smaller, higher output turbocharged engines, which haven’t resulted in increased repair costs.
- Continued adoption of lower viscosity motor oils and variation between vehicle models.
- Recurring repair issues with an OEM, often resulting in more downtime, parts delays, and rental costs. The trend was prevalent across a single vehicle model, but differed by engine type. Analytics revealed these trends for OEM escalation.
- Parts delays due to non-preventive maintenance repairs and re-engineered parts, creating driver frustration and rental delays.
These were some of the key findings of AF’s 21st annual fleet passenger car maintenance study conducted exclusively by Element, a fleet management business headquartered in Sparks, Md., and Eden Prairie, Minn. The study was based on actual maintenance expenses incurred by 37,627 passenger cars during calendar-year 2015. This three-part report examines the survey results in separate articles focusing on overall car maintenance trends, extended service intervals, and passenger car replacement tires.
Costs Up Slightly in CY-2015
Overall, fleet car maintenance costs per mile for the 2015 calendar-year were up slightly compared to those in the 2014-CY.
One reason for the slight increase was that labor rates increased in 2015, a continuation of a similar trajectory from 2014. But, the forecast is for labor rates to remain flat in calendar-year 2016.
“We have seen repair-provider labor rates increase across the board from national accounts to independents to dealerships. We expect 2016 labor rates to remain flat in metropolitan areas after the 2015 increases,” said Stracke.
While overall vehicle quality continues to be high, there were several popular fleet vehicles that experienced greater-than-normal maintenance issues. “Several new-model introductions have had early service repair issues, making it challenging for shops to diagnose and required escalation directly to the OEM engineers,” added Stracke.
Maintenance Cost Analysis
Vehicle-build quality continues to be high, but several key maintenance areas witnessed cost increases in 2015. “For instance, we have seen significant cost increases with replacement windshields because of collision avoidance and other embedded glass technology,” said Stracke.
This observation was echoed by Christensen. “The cost of outside mirror replacements has increased due to the integration of collision avoidance technology into the mirrors,” he said.
Other findings identified transmission issues that influenced 2015 maintenance costs, such as OEM-specific fluid replacement requirements. “For instance, transmission failures have occurred in CVT transmissions when not using transmission fluid specifically for CVT-type transmissions. Some non-OEM repair providers have struggled with these new requirements,” said Stracke.
An ongoing issue is the continuation of parts shortages experienced in prior years, which has lengthened turnaround time as vehicles sit idle waiting for replacement parts to arrive. “Back-ordered parts continue to be an issue, creating repair cycle delays, rental costs, and driver inconvenience,” said Christensen.
Similarly, the ongoing technician shortage continues to impact vehicle downtime. “The lack of specialty trained repair technicians has posed problems resolving drivability and complex diagnostic repairs,” added Christensen.
Maintenance Cost Forecast
The forecast is that fleet car maintenance expenses will increase in 2016.
“We expect maintenance expenses to rise 2 to 3 percent, driven by parts prices, continued shop technician shortages, and new-model OEM-only parts availability issues,” said Christensen.