The Association of Car Fleet Operators (ACFO) has said it will continue collaborating with the British Vehicle Rental and Leasing Association (BVRLA), despite taking issue with the BVRLA’s further expansion in the fleet sector.

The BVRLA, which says it now comprises 950 members responsible for half of all new vehicles sales in the UK, recently announced it was opening membership to fleet operators come January.

“The BVRLA has been representing the fleet sector for over 50 years and our members, with the support of the board, agree that it is a natural organic evolution to invite fleet operators to join the BVRLA family,” BVRLA chief executive Gerry Keaney said at the BT Fleet Industry Forum on September 14.

“By representing car, van and truck fleet operators, we are in a unique position to strengthen our industry representation, provide deeper industry insights and be a louder voice of influence when protecting the interests of the fleet sector.”

On Wednesday this week, the ACFO said through its chairman John Pryor that it was “both surprised and disappointed” at the BVRLA’s announcement.

He said: “ACFO has been established for more than 40 years and is acknowledged as the UK’s premier fleet decision-makers’ organisation … That will continue.”

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“However, it has to be acknowledged that, as the BVRLA’s name suggests, it represents vehicle leasing and rental companies. ACFO can see that, at times, there is bound to be conflict when an organisation attempts to represent both suppliers and customers in the same industry.

“ACFO will continue to represent the independent voice of the fleet operator, while also continuing to work in partnership with other industry organisations, which include the BVRLA and ICFM [Institute of Car Fleet Management] with whom it also has strong links.”

In its statement two weeks ago, the BVRLA also said it would work with other trade bodies and fleet organisations “to ensure that the voice of fleets is heard loud and clear when policymakers are making decisions that affect the industry”.

The ACFO said last week it was in discussions to join the European Fleet and Mobility Association (EUFMA), a newly-established trade body bringing together associations in Austria, Germany and Switzerland.