Approximately 75% of North American passenger vehicles are equipped with some level of connected vehicle technology. For fleets, though, aftermarket connected solutions could be the key to providing a ubiquitous driver experience and effectively managing a wide range of vehicle makes and models.
During COVID-19, rental fleet operators drastically reduced their operating fleet size by either selling or turning back vehicles and coordinating for safe and secure long-term vehicle storage solutions. Along with these COVID-19 fleet reductions, workforce reductions require fleet operators to do even more with fewer resources while adjusting to atypical business and leisure travel demand. Depending on the company, both headquarters and site operation personnel are estimated to have contracted by between 15% and 35%.
In many cases, aftermarket solution providers are the only vendors able to drive rapid innovation and collaboration to provide fleet operators with flexible technology and to fulfill the connected fleet vision that ultimately finds its way to OEM connected fleet solution sets
Traditionally, automakers manage vehicle production releases through structured processes focused on general consumer connected car features, while selectively releasing connected fleet functionality aimed at highline models and trims. Aftermarket connected fleet solutions in turn bridge the gap to lower-end models and trims traditionally used to serve budget rental car and private fleet needs. In many cases, aftermarket solution providers are the only vendors able to drive rapid innovation and collaboration to provide fleet operators with flexible technology and to fulfill the connected fleet vision that ultimately finds its way to OEM connected fleet solution sets, especially when faced with industry-changing challenges like COVID-19.
By nature, aftermarket connected fleet hardware (HW) is easily moved between vehicles and not restricted to specific makes or models. Although aftermarket HW may not support all OEM connected features out of the box, most basic features (e.g. fuel level and odometer) are supported and vendors can quickly certify select vehicles for more advanced features (e.g. lock/unlock and immobilize).
For today—and the foreseeable future—aftermarket connected fleet vendors and solutions are and will remain a valuable part of rental and private fleet operators’ trusted team and arsenal to manage through downturns and opportunities on the road to evolving mobility solutions
On the whole aftermarket connected fleet solutions offer considerable value for fleet management. They provide the visibility needed to ensure stored vehicles are indeed secured—not on rent or missing—and the flexibility to proactively manage operating costs like cellular data service and insurance costs. Fleet operators can also selectively activate and deactivate vehicles where needed to meet local market demand and can quickly identify and remediate any vehicle issues (e.g. Diagnostic Trouble Codes (DTC)). At the same time, low-level connected fleet solutions continue to provide critical vehicle and rental operating data feeds such as fuel level at return, which help identify and quickly address issues and leverage opportunities.
So where does the market go from here? A unified connected car portal solution is one of the many opportunities for rental and large private fleet operators to improve security and simplify fleet operations while unlocking the value of connected fleet data across their organisations. Adding a Fleet Management System (FMS) layer along with a unified data feed consolidates user access/visibility management and security administration and unifies vendor business processes to ensure very high privacy requirements and improved customer experience. Aftermarket FMS solutions are automaker-agnostic and specifically designed to support multiple vehicle makes and models as well as emerging stand-alone technologies, such as dashcams.
For today—and the foreseeable future—aftermarket connected fleet vendors and solutions are and will remain a valuable part of rental and private fleet operators’ trusted team and arsenal to manage through downturns and opportunities on the road to evolving mobility solutions.
The opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the positions of Automotive World Ltd.
Jim Gripp is a Program Director at PowerFleet
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