Car hire and lease firms criticised for lack of telematics uptake

Leasing firms in the US are coming under fire for not taking advantage of telematics technologies, despite the fact that keeping an eye on a vehicle you’re lending to a stranger would be a great way to help reduce accidents and issues involving blame should one occur.

In a chat with BusinessCar, Tim Eaves, current commercial director at telematics company, In-Car-Cleverness, said that he’s only recently started seeing leasing companies take advantage of the technology. “They seem to have been slow to come around,” he said.

TomTom has noticed the slow uptake also, saying much of the problem came from leasing firms not wanting to opt-in to the more open telematics schemes that are becoming popular, wanting instead to either keep it in-house, or limited to one provider.

“They’ve been on and off the boil for years,” said Giles Margerison, sales director at TomTom Telematics. “They’ve tried lots of different strategies, they’ve tried to create their own solutions, they’ve tried to partner and have exclusive deals and everything in between. It’s still very embryonic in this sector.”

However recently it seems leasing companies have started to cotton on, mostly it seems, because of increasing requests for the technology from corporations renting vehicles, since they want to keep track of their drivers. As usual with telematics, it’s the fleet sector that’s driving its adoption.

The BVRLA overseas the leasing industry and claims it's seeing an increased uptake in telematics

The BVRLA overseas the leasing industry and claims it’s seeing an increased uptake in telematics

Part of the other reason these companies have been slow to adopt the technology, is cost, according to David Wilson from Tracker. He said that until recently when initial startup costs started to come down as the technology matured, leasing firms were put off by the expensive startup costs involved.

“I think the penny’s now really dropped,” he said. “The industry is no longer looking at fixed-box options – you’ve got things like OBD [on-board diagnostics], you’ve got smartphones, you’ve got so many options now, so it’s much more achievable and we’ve seen hands going up saying ‘I want this, I want that.”

However it’s also to do with the maturation of the technology itself. It’s only over the last couple of years that telematics providers have really figured out how to do affordable and accurate tracking of driver habits like sharp braking and acceleration, which can have a big impact on not only fuel usage, but driver safety. Now that telematics can track these metrics accurately, it’s one less barrier to adoption and leasing companies are likely to begin rolling it out across the board soon enough.

“Affordability and functionality continue to improve and the advent of the connected car and increased use of smartphones are set to revolutionise the way fleets are managed and driven,” said a spokesperson for the rental vehicle lobby, BVRLA.

However telematics providers said that leasing companies are still lagging behind and need to get on board the telematics solution if they aren’t to be left behind.

    Jon Martindale

    Jon Martindale is an English author and journalist, who's written for a number of high-profile technology news outlets, covering everything from the latest hardware and software releases, to hacking scandals and online activism.

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