Motor dealers are missing out on a massive market offered by the hundreds of thousands of people who qualify for Motability allowances but fail to take them up. That's the message from Tim Copland, recently appointed by Toyota as National Leasing, Rental & Special Sales Manager and the man responsible for the manufacturer's Motability business. He is calling on dealerships to reach out to the disabled and help ensure that more people enter the scheme.
"Many people are simply unaware of the charity, because all that ever goes out to them is a leaflet from Motability when they are first registered as disabled," says Copland. He says promotion on the scale needed is too costly for the charity.
"We are asking dealers to do the job themselves through local promotions. Those that do well with Motability hold open days, build relationships with disabled clubs and are active in their local disabled communities."
Toyota dealerships in "hotspots" such as Liverpool, the North-East, Northern Ireland and Scotland had shown the way by having the right people in the right places, he said of the Motability Specialists based at accredited dealerships in those areas.
Copland feels that promoting Motability locally need not be costly for dealerships. "All they need is to understand the solutions, go out to meet community groups and make the Motability experience pleasant and straight-forward for customers."
Motability Operations, which contract hires vehicles to disabled drivers, currently has some 400,000 vehicles on its books, but 1.57 million people receive higher-rate disability allowance and so qualify for the monthly Motability payment.
Tim Copland says that Toyota's objective is not to take on the Motability market and win. "We want a reasonable share and to remain consistent," he says. And he agrees that to help enthuse dealerships, Motability Operations needs to be simplified in line with manufacturer requirements. "The scheme is already kinder to customers now that mileage charges have been taken down; Motability is listening to us.
"Some lack of enthusiasm for Motability among dealers in the past may also have been down to misunderstandings about its nature," says Copland.
"For example, the charity does help financially disadvantaged people with the cost of fitting adaptations or upgrading to larger vehicles, but this is not the norm. Only one in five people need adaptations, and then it is usually a simple steering ball on the wheel. Often it is the carers who drive the vehicle, so at most a swivel seat would be required."
Copland also recognises that sensible pricing is essential to retain market share. "In Corolla and Yaris, the two most popular Toyota ranges on Motability, we have the tools for dealers to do the job, and our objective for 2003 is to get consistent pricing and remain competitive in a price-sensitive market. We are already committed to this with Yaris, to ensure our continued support for dealers."
On a national scale, Tim Copland said that Toyota had been helping to promote mobility and independent lifestyles through its relationship with war veteran Simon Weston, who joins the biggest-ever Toyota stand at the Mobility Roadshow for the third year running this week. He invited dealers to the show to visit the stand and talk to Simon and himself.
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