How to prepare fleet services for 2016

There are a number of reasons for fleet managers to look forward to the new year. As well as offering a much-needed break, the transition into 2016 is likely to herald a range of exciting automotive developments that will set the tone for future trends. 

In many cases, the trends that will define 2016 are a continuation of those that started in 2015, with green cars and innovative safety features likely to both remain a focus. For fleet managers and their drivers, this could spur further investment as organisations secure newer vehicles packed with the latest technology. 

Here's how to get ahead for 2016. 

Go green

Organisations across a range of industries are being encouraged to adopt energy efficient operating practices. While this can be challenging for some businesses, those that rely on vehicles have a number of different solutions to the issue. 

Three hybrid engines are on WardsAuto's top 10 list for 2016.

Consumers' need for green cars is driving development, leading most of the world's top manufacturers to offer vehicles that can meet these requirements. Whether it's a hybrid SUV or an all-electric sedan that fleet managers are after, chances are there's already a vehicle built to this criteria. 

WardsAuto studied the range of new cars set to debut in 2016 and picked out a selection of the engines it expects to be most influential. Unsurprisingly, given the nature of the current automotive market, a number of hybrid options made the list, reinforcing the idea this technology is here to stay. 

Director at the firm Drew Winter noted the variety present in the list, illustrating that while most manufacturers are working towards a common goal, many are approaching it in their own unique way. 

"This is a list that's loaded with innovation, from hybrids to muscle cars," he explained. 

"We have three groundbreaking electrified drivetrains for the first time ever, each representing a different technology: the gas-electric Prius hybrid, the plug-in hybrid Sonata and the extended-range electric Volt."

Embrace technology

The days of analogue driving are long over, and fleet managers around Australia can expect their vehicles to become more and more advanced as the years progress. From self-driving vehicles to autonomous crash-avoidance technologies, cars are expected to become safer in 2016 and beyond. 

Ford could be leading the charge in this regard, with the manufacturer announcing a significant investment in electric vehicles and features that prompt user engagement. With this spending, Ford is hoping to change the way cars are perceived by the public, and wishes for them to be seen as more than just tools. 

The human element could be taken out of driving in the coming years. The human element could be taken out of driving in the coming years.

Executive Vice President for Product Development Raj Nair says it isn't just about moving people from A to B. Instead, it's about creating an automotive experience. 

"This new way of working brings together marketing, research, engineering and design in a new way to create meaningful user experiences, rather than individually developing technologies and features that need to be integrated into a final product," he said. 

One of the features set to enhance engagement is customisable digital displays in the vehicle's interior, allowing drivers to personalise their car. Fleet managers could use the technology to prioritise which information they want their drivers to focus on, such as energy use or average speed. 

Try something new

Rarely has there been such a wide variety of vehicles shapes and sizes for fleet managers to choose from. In fact, many manufacturers have drastically expanded the range of vehicles they sell in recent years, as consumer demand shifts away from tried-and-tested designs like hatchbacks and sedans. 

SUVs offer added practicality over their smaller counterparts.

While these two models are still valuable to fleet managers, the rise of the SUV and its smaller crossover counterpart has changed what people look for in a vehicle. According to the Federal Chamber of Automotive Industries (FCAI), these classes of vehicle are becoming more appealing to both businesses and government organisations, in many cases offering added practicality over sedans or hatchbacks. 

On top of this, their rising popularity is seeing many emerge with hybrid engines, meaning organisations can purchase a larger car without having to worry about increased fuel consumption. 

FCAI CEO Tony Weber said November saw further growth in this segment, as more buyers are attracted to the idea of these vehicles. 

"Both SUV and light commercial vehicle sales surged in November, with both segments seeing 16 per cent increases on November 2014 sales, and the segments together representing almost 55 per cent of the total vehicle market," he said.

The start of the new year could also be the perfect time to try a whole different engine package. In many cases, hybrid or all-electric cars can be integrated smoothly into an organisation's fleet, greatly reducing fuel consumption and related costs. While the initial investment may be higher for some cars, they offer the ability to save more over their life span. 

With 2016 just around the corner, the new year will offer a range of opportunities for fleet managers to embrace new vehicles and trends.