A weekly round of the latest fleet news, including GE’s tech announcement, Lex’s deal with Caffè Nero, Alphabet’s deal with epyx, Fleet Alliance’s deal with Pets at Home, Norbert Dentressangle’s deal with BRS, why ACFO wants your opinions, and emissions standards from Mazda and EA.

GE Capital Fleet Services launches management tech

GE Capital Fleet Services, the vehicle leasing arm of operation US asset finance company GE Capital, has unveiled its latest upgrades to help fleet managers interact with the company’s customer technology platform.

The enhancements, based on customer feedback, include tools for customization, search, cost management, factory ordering, compliance, driver messaging, remarketing and data integration that are designed to improve fleet management, administration, and communications on the web and through mobile devices.

The enhancements are currently on limited release for selected customers, before being rolled out across the board later this year, and are a precursor to the company’s improved fleet management platform MyFleetOffice2.

Darrin Hebert, chief information officer at GE Capital Fleet Services, said: “With the enhancements we’re rolling out today, we’re giving our customers access to advanced analytics, search tools and other services to help make their jobs easier.”

Lex Autolease brews up a deal for Caffè Nero

Lex Autolease has agreed to provide UK coffeehouse chain Caffè Nero with a 60-vehicle fleet on a four-year term.

The selection of salons and hatchbacks, including Audi A3s and Volkswagen Golfs, are covered by a full maintenance contract as well as a Whole Life Cost policy which allows the coffee chain to see all running and owning costs associated with the vehicles.

Paul Kennedy, human resources director for Caffè Nero, said: “We selected Lex Autolease as our new vehicle provider as they showed a good understanding of our fleet requirements, particularly the introduction of a Whole Life Cost policy, which will allow us to identify efficiencies and make cost savings. We have also been impressed with the range of vehicles available under this agreement.”

Alphabet renews epyx deal

Alphabet has extended its contract with e-commerce platform provider epyx for three years, covering the 115,000-vehicle UK fleet of the BMW-owned lessor.

Alphabet will continue to use the 1link Service Network, 1link Disposal Network and 1link Vehicle Relicensing systems supplied by epyx to manage its vehicle service and maintenance, de-fleeting, and DVLA relicensing respectively.

epyx estimates its 1link platforms now cover more than 2.5 million fleet vehicles and 18,000 service providers.

Pets at Home renews Fleet Alliance deal

Pets at Home, the UK’s largest pet care retailer with 352 stores across the UK, has renewed its contract with Fleet Alliance to manage its fleet of 243 vehicles, most often premium-grade saloon cars for area managers, with many vehicles travelling more than 100,000 miles over their three-year lease agreements.

The fleet is drawn from seven different brands, including Audi, BMW, Mercedes-Benz and Volkswagen, sourced through Fleet Alliance’s tendering process, drawn from a panel of lessors, and / or terms negotiated between Pets at Home and its dealers, which has seen a 14.7% reduction in acquisition costs in the past 12 months.

Fleet Alliance continues its responsibility for invoice consolidation, licence checking, insurance updates, servicing, MOT reminders and other administration for the Pets at Home fleet.

Four companies, 13 trucks and a five-year deal

BRS Ltd has agreed to supply 13 Renault trucks to logistics services firm Norbert Dentressangle, acquired for Mitsubishi Electric.

The selection of Renault Premiums and Midlums have been supplied on a five-year repair and maintenance contract and delivered in Mitsubishi livery for use as nationwide delivery vehicles.

Peter Firm, contract manager at Norbert Dentressangle, said the Renaults had been chosen for the fuel economy demonstrated using the Optitronic automated transmission, while BRS had “worked hard to supply the trucks to our exact specification and provide a supportive and comprehensive account management service.”

The company has a further 40 Midlums ordered for delivery later this year.

ACFO seeks respondents and votes

ACFO (the Association of Car Fleet Operators) has opened an online survey on attitudes toward salary sacrifice schemes, its first for 18 months. The survey is open to all fleet decision-makers, ACFO members or not, at http://acfo.org/page/survey.

Damian James, chairman of ACFO, said such schemes had received much media coverage but wants to know how popular they are among fleet managers. When the Association ran a similar survey 18 months ago, 5.5% of fleet vehicles were salary sacrifice cars, available to only 0.58% of employees across respondent companies.

ACFO is also seeking votes from its membership for its annual awards. Nominations, now closed, cover 70 fleet suppliers or vehicles across seven categories.

Voting will close on Friday 4 October and the awards will be presented on Wednesday, 6 November, 2013.

Hitachi: environmental body beats fleet standard on CO2

The Environment Agency (EA), a public body responsible for promoting sustainable development in the UK, has reduced the average CO2 emissions of its fleet to 115g/km. Average emissions of new cars within the EA car pool to 106g/km, according to Hitachi Capital Vehicle Solutions (HCVS), which supplies contract hire and maintenance to the Agency’s 3,442-car fleet.

The EA fleet has reduced by 500 vehicles in the past year and looked to reduce the number of car journeys it undertakes by encouraging public transport use and video conferencing. It is also currently trialling electric vehicles, plug-in hybrids and vehicles with bio fuel engines.

According to latest statistics from the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders, the average emission from a car purchased in the UK is currently 133.1g/km.

Mazda emphasises company car credentials

Mazda Motors UK has claimed its latest version of the Mazda3 will “transform the lower medium company car sector”.

The manufacturer claims the 55.4mpg fuel efficiency and 119g/km CO2 emissions available in the Mazda3 will provide benefit-in-kind (BiK) tax and National Insurance savings for drivers and businesses.

Steve Tomlinson, head of fleet at the brand, said the model would offer “a real alternative” in the C and C/D segments, with a BiK rate starting at 15%, although rising to 20% on some model variants.