Northgate is looking to attract business from traditional contract hire and outright purchase van fleets with a new suite of rental products. The commercial vehicle flexible rental specialist has expanded its offering via Northgate Choice with customers able to ‘fix, flex or mix’ rental options to suit their needs.
The portfolio includes the existing Northgate Flexible Term Rental (Norflex), a new Northgate Fixed Term Rental (Norfix) for fleets looking at more predictable long-term costs, and a combination of the two that can be tailored to a fleet’s needs.
Eddie Aston, Northgate managing director, said: “The launch of Choice is geared towards Northgate becoming a van solutions company, rather than just a rental one.
“We conducted a lot of research with our customers, not just about how they used rental in their business, but how their fleets were structured and what their needs were.”
While Aston wouldn’t put a number on how much business he expects Northgate Choice to add, he is expecting it to open up new growth areas.
He said: “There are no specifics on what sort of impact Northgate Choice will have on our growth.
“But I think we were previously missing out on that opportunity for fixed term contracts, rather than being the top and tail of the process. This is a natural move for us. If you don’t change to reflect your customer’s needs, you get left behind.”
Aston said the feedback the company had from customers was that many were frustrated by the established rental market and felt current offerings did not reflect today’s fast-evolving business needs.
He said: “We’ve learnt businesses want flexibility, more control, regular payments with no extra costs and no worries over vehicles off the road.”
The rental products through Choice are underpinned by its service package that includes maintenance and breakdown recovery with replacement vehicles where needed, MOT, road fund licence and a dedicated account manager.
The business has a network of 73 branches and 52 wholly-owned workshops across the UK. Choice has been rolled out across all locations. Aston is not looking to expand the network of locations as growth is expected to come from the current footprint.
Aston said: “We haven’t had to change who we are or our service offering to do this. We need to keep customers moving and we already have a service network and products in place to deliver on that USP.”
He said Northgate has a team of consultants that can help win big fleet contracts and the approach is not so much to sell as identify where fleets are having a problem and then to offer a solution.
Aston said sales teams are trained to show comparisons on outright purchase, contract hire, fixed-term rental and flexible to show how the total cost of ownership varies.
Karen Whittingham, Northgate marketing director, said the launch of Choice was supported with customer research the company commissioned last year.
“It gave some huge insights about how our customers were operating. Our customers told us that around 42% of their time was taken up with administering their fleet and this is usually in addition to the main job role they are doing which might be unrelated,” she said.
As a result, Choice comes with a fleet management service giving managers control over rental periods, invoicing, vehicle documentation and damage reports. This can be linked to Northgate’s telematics offering to provide real-time tracking, as well as information on driver behaviour and efficiency.
Northgate’s product offering is rounded off by its ‘We Buy, You Rent’ scheme which lets customers trade older vehicles for cash in exchange for a fixed rental agreement.
Aston said: “We have Northgate Choice which is the main pillar of what we do. But we have our telematics, fleet management and the buy-to-rent scheme to sit beneath and support that.
“These things are under the umbrella of what we do and it’s all down to making doing business as easy as possible for the fleet manager.”