There is no denying that fleets can make substantial operating cost savings by employing a telematic system to track and monitor vehicles. There is no shortage of providers either, all vying for your business by offering that one piece of vital information that no-one else can deliver.
To date, vehicle manufacturers have on the whole steered clear of getting directly involved in the sector, preferring to let the telematics providers deal with operators. Now however, Volkswagen is adding telematics to its in-house customer offer, by introducing a single, all-encompassing smart telematics solution in partnership with the RAC.
In line with its ‘Working With You’ philosophy, Volkswagen has attempted to make the telematic solution as easy to use as possible. It is also simple to choose which options to adopt, as there aren’t any. Volkswagen will simply charge £12.50 per vehicle, per month, for a 36-month contract. There are no hidden extras, no add-ons and no charges for set-up and installation.
Critically, the telematic unit can be installed in new or older Volkswagen vans and in other makes of vehicle, allowing customers to have a single information source, whatever the fleet make-up. All that’s required is an OBD II diagnostic port in the van.
“The key for us is having a system that is universal,” said James McGhee, service and parts planning and performance manager at Volkswagen. “It’s a key opportunity to add value to our customers’ businesses.”
The company has also made the system easy to use, wary of the data overload concern. The company is looking to attract SMEs as well as larger corporate users, with fleets in excess of 20 vehicles offering the best opportunity for savings.
Volkswagen claims that the telematic system can lead to efficiency gains of up to 13%, saving as much as £740 in fuel consumption per vehicle each year. Closer monitoring of driving habits can also lead to longer component life, cutting costs.
The telematic unit is a plug and play module, that is easily positioned behind the dash by your local Volkswagen Van Centre. Once activated the data can be accessed through a web portal on a computer, tablet or smartphone. It takes a few moments to set up, but the dashboard is simple to navigate and managers can easily add drivers and vehicles and set-up reports.
The unit provides real-time tracking, so a manager can see where vans are on a map at any time. This makes it easier to allocate work and to keep customers informed about deliveries and arrival times.
The reports also show how the vehicle has been driven on each journey, with different colours to flag up heavy acceleration or braking.
Such easily accessed information allows the fleet manager to deal with the driver, providing driver training if necessary, to improve behaviour behind the wheel. The system also allows managers to print driver comparison tables, rating drivers in terms of fuel consumption and driver performance to generate competition to be the best within the fleet.
In addition to regular telematic functions, Volkswagen is offering a Driverline concierge function. If customers permit it, the data feed can also be seen by their local Volkswagen Van Centre, allowing proactive contact to book service work and ensure timely maintenance. The customer can also decide who the point of contact is within their own company, the fleet manager or, for more remote workers, the driver themselves.
“This unit really can be cost-free, because it can deliver cost savings that more than pay for it,” said Mr McGhee.
Volkswagen has fairly low-key ambitions for this first year in the telematic market, though it would be a surprise if they weren’t easily exceeded.
“We’re looking at between 500-1,000 units this year,” said Mr McGhee.