Maintenance, a key factor in maintaining residual value
However sophisticated they may be, today’s cars are still fragile mechanical units. Hence the need to scrupulously observe preventive and curative maintenance: failure to do so can result purely and simply in the destruction of the engine or an accident. A well-known short-term rental company had a case in point. A customer who had broken down at the side of the road called for assistance, and his tight engine was diagnosed as irreparable. The result: several thousand euros for a standard exchange. The cause was a simple leak, which led the motorist to drive several dozen kilometres without oil, until he broke down. Obviously, the warning light on the dashboard had come on well in advance, but the customer denied this. How to prove his fault?
Neglected maintenance, lower residual value
For all fleet managers, leasers and renters, the issue of vehicle maintenance is therefore crucial, and largely determines the maintenance of residual value at the end of the leasing contract. But here again, it’s often too late to notice maintenance failures when the vehicle is returned. The damage may be irreparable, and if this is not the case, the ‘gaps’ in the maintenance logbook can only reduce the vehicle’s resale value. Hence the need for fleet operators to be able to monitor the lessee’s compliance with maintenance deadlines in real time, throughout the lease contract.
In this respect, it would be illusory to imagine that the electrification of the fleet would, in the long term, eliminate the need for maintenance: although electric cars do not require oil changes, their batteries nevertheless have cooling and thermoregulation systems that require regular visits to the workshop. As for the braking system and tyres, their poor state of repair can have serious consequences, especially as these vehicles are much heavier than their combustion-powered equivalents, with greater risks of accident.
Echoes, real-time maintenance data
This is where Echoes, a neutral server independent of manufacturers, can help. Echoes collects technical vehicle data from all manufacturers and displays it uniformly in its dedicated Carfleet interface, including preventive and corrective maintenance data. This technical data includes:
- Scheduled date and/or mileage remaining until the next maintenance due date
- Tyre pressure
- Fluids: fuel, engine oil and ADBlue levels, cooling system temperature, etc.
- Mechanical alerts as they appear on the dashboard (oil level, coolant level, brake system fault, maintenance due date passed, etc).
For each of these alerts, the GPS position, the date and time of occurrence and the odometer reading are available. They can be viewed for each vehicle or in the form of a consolidated report. An alert log is also available to the operator, so that he can see at a glance all current and past alerts for all or part of the fleet on the road.
Corrective maintenance vs. preventive maintenance
Based on this data, it’s easy for the operator to take preventive or corrective maintenance action:
- Corrective maintenance: of course, the alerts displayed on the dashboard should theoretically prompt the user to put an end to the malfunction, either by taking action himself by topping up the fluids (engine oil, coolant or windscreen washer fluid, tyre pressure), or by visiting the nearest workshop in the event of a major fault in the powertrain or braking system. If the lessee is late in taking action, the fleet manager will be informed via Carfleet, and can then contact him to ask him to take urgent action, or even to provide assistance by reserving a slot for him at the nearest maintenance center.
- Preventive maintenance: in the context of a leasing contract on a new or very recent vehicle, compliance with the maintenance deadlines set out in the service book is of major importance, insofar as it determines the application of the manufacturer’s warranty. For most makes of car, exceeding the maintenance deadline by 2 or 3,000 km means that the manufacturer’s warranty does not automatically apply to any subsequent malfunction. This is a risk that neither the driver nor the leaser can afford to take. That’s why it’s so important to support the customer before the due date by contacting them by email, text message or push notification, to give them time to get organised, or even to offer them time in the workshop. But action is even more necessary when the deadline has passed: the customer should then be contacted urgently, if necessary by telephone, to encourage them to get to the garage as quickly as possible.
- Settling disputes: if failure to comply with the maintenance schedule or failure to take account of an engine warning light leads to serious damage to the vehicle, the full history of mechanical alerts available in the Carfleet interface can enable the leaser to easily prove the lessee’s responsibility for the damage. This simplifies the handling and resolution of any disputes that may arise.
Raising awareness to avoid having to monitor
However, monitoring the mechanical condition of vehicles on the road will be all the easier if lessees are made aware of the importance of maintenance, in their own interests: it’s not just their safety that’s at stake, but also their peace of mind. Individuals can be made aware of this when they sign their contract, and regularly during the course of their contract. To this end, educational material in the form of newsletters, leaflets or notifications can be made available to them, potentially supplemented by data, statistics and anecdotes from Carfleet.