INTERVIEW > John Wright, MD, Ford Fleet Management

Ford Fleet Management brings focus on large fleets

Ford Fleet Management was established earlier this year as a joint venture between Ford and ALD. Van Fleet World caught up with the managing director of Ford Fleet Management John Wright to find out more about the joint venture.

We started by asking how it came about, “A couple of years ago, Ford were having a strategic review, looking at the future and really just looking at gaps. The obvious gap was more the in-life management of customers. Of course, Ford is good at supplying vans and cars, but where is the ownership of the customer?

“It’s typically a fleet management or leasing operation, so that prompted the question, “Do we buy one? Do we create one? Do we do something else?” They did the “Something else” which was really to grow the existing partnership with ALD and grow it into a formal joint venture, more so than the previous White Label partnership.”

The idea behind the joint venture is that ALD brings the strengths of its back office operations and ability to process leasing and fleet management business. Ford brings its vehicle and in particular van expertise and the company’s relationships with large fleets. In this way, Ford will fill the identified gap by providing integrated fleet management services.

Doing something different is key to the success of the venture, “The last thing the world needs is just another leasing company.

There are loads of them out there already. We’re bringing something different to it by really focussing in on uptime and pro-active fleet management”, says Wright, “That’s where the trust and close working relationship with Ford will come in. We’ll be able to take all this data, this rich data set off the vehicles and do something meaningful with it. So, we’re creating tools that allow vehicles to be taken out of service and repaired pro-actively rather than waiting to break down or for some warning light to come on.

“While they are off the road, we can then look at other events, maybe corralling together the tyres that needed replacing or repairing the accident damage that had been noted on a driver defect report using the Ford Pass app.”

In the launch phase of Ford Fleet Management, Ford has also launched Ford Liive, which will be featured on the company’s CV Show stand. It is Ford’s new connected system designed to help operators increase productivity and maximise vehicle uptime. The latest addition to the system is Ford Telematics Essentials, a complimentary management tool designed for fleet operators. It will give alerts based on operational data just as Wright describes.

Leasing is clearly a route for fleets that are interested in beginning the transition to electric vehicles, enabling them to get an idea of what will work best for their fleets. Ford’s Transit Custom PHEV gives them a means to sample this on a small scale, enabling them to try the practicalities of an electric van without concerns over range.

Wright sees Ford Fleet Management’s role as that of a trusted advisor. “Of course, we are a Ford-branded business so we’re likely to be positive about the Ford brand and products, of course we are. But we are a multi-marque business, we can provide any make and model to fleets. We can provide any funding or fleet management product. We are as independent as we can be to give them the best solution to their needs. Of course we’ll align it to the Ford brand, we’d be foolish not to. We’ve got all that expertise behind us, but I think we can do it in a meaningful and educated way.”

Ford has equipped its model range with modems since 2019, which enables Ford Fleet Management to gain access (with customer permission) to a great deal of vehicle data, without using a plug-in telematics system. Wright thinks that partly as a result, van fleets are familiar with telematics and what systems can provide. “What they are now looking for is help to interpret it and use it to good effect. That’s really what we are trying to do. It’s not just a case of, “The vehicle has had an engine warning light come on and the driver has just found out about it.” That’s helpful, but the really helpful piece is coming and it’s this prognostic piece which says, “I’m seeing lines of code coming off this vehicle that tell me in six months time a warning light is going to come on, unless you do something now and intervene to fix the problem.”

“What we’re working on with Ford now is the sensitivity level to set that to. What you don’t want to be doing is warning the driver every time you get a health alert. There are something like 6,000 lines of data that come off a vehicle every 30 seconds. You could have triggers coming up for the slightest thing, but it means nothing.

“What we have with big data is that if we start to see events happening on a regular basis in all our fleets, we can then say that we know when vehicles start to throw these codes, that if you don’t change the oil, or put AdBlue in or replace the battery or whatever it is, in the future it will have a more catastrophic problem and that’s where the real value for fleet operators is, to tell them that you’ve fixed a problem that they didn’t even know existed.”