Case studies

GreenThumb opts for Doblò

Choosing the right van for the job is a key decision for the efficient and smooth operation of a fleet.

Getting it right means an organisation can reduce costs, minimise vehicle downtime and increase the level of service to customers – all factors which persuaded the GreenThumb lawn treatment service to switch to Fiat Professional for the supply of its vans.

So far the company, which has a fleet of almost 800 vans operating across the UK, has taken on around 40 Fiat Professional Doblò Cargo Tecnico, and expects the number of the brand’s vans on its fleet to grow to around 250 by the end of the calendar year.

The company decided to change its van supplier last year and carried out an exhaustive process before making the final decision.

Mark Hallam, operations director of GreenThumb, said: “We had been doing due diligence on it for quite a few months, so we looked at a whole range of manufacturers before we plumped for Fiat.

“The reasons were numerous, but, ultimately, it was about the best all-round package."

“When you are procuring on behalf of a franchise network like we do, you obviously try to make sure you get the best deal and that includes the best price all round. This includes the maintenance side, but also choosing a manufacturer who can service your needs best.

“This involves making sure they have a network of dealerships so you can have a guaranteed service wherever you are in the country. This is important to us because we have branches as far north as Inverness, right down to St Ives in the south.

“Uptime is of paramount importance. If we have a vehicle off the road it means we can’t go to service our customers. So, having replacement vehicles readily available through Fiat Professional to allow us to keep going is important to us.”

Fiat Professional has 74 dealerships offering sales, with 162 sites providing aftersales services.

GreenThumb was also impressed with the vehicles offered, with reliability and specification key considerations.

“We have obviously been in and around vans for some time, so we talked to the funders and other people about the reliability and how they fared compared with other vans. The statistics we saw suggested that the Fiat vans seemed to be leading the way in that respect,” says Hallam.

“The fact the Doblò Cargo isn’t a brand new model or a brand new version of that model gave us some comfort too, as we knew the reliability data was for the models we were acquiring.

“On the face of it, having a new model sounds great and looks great from a brand point of view, but sometimes – like with anything such as software – they do tend to end up being the ones that fall foul of any issues.”

The vans, which have a payload of up to one tonne and a load volume of up to 5.4 cu m, will be operated on a three-year replacement cycle.

They are being vinyl wrapped by Elite Graphics, near Wrexham while the interior is ply-lined by Deefab, based near Chester, to protect the interior of the van from the equipment and chemicals the vans carry.

Hallam says initial feedback from drivers about the Doblò Cargo have been positive, with some franchisees saying “what a pleasure it is to drive”.

He adds: “The specification was probably as high as in any other van we saw. We have people who are treating lawns in the heat of summer, so the air conditioning as standard will be a welcome addition for them."

Standard equipment on the Doblò Cargo Tecnico specification grade includes reverse parking sensors, radio/CD/MP3 in-car entertainment system with Bluetooth® connectivity, steering wheel audio controls, satellite navigation, air-conditioning and cruise control.

GreenThumb’s vans are powered by the 105hp Multijet2 engine, but the Doblò Cargo is also available with a 94hp MPI petrol engine and Multijet2 diesel engines with either 95hp or 120hp.

A further aspect of Fiat Professional’s operations which has impressed GreenThumb is the relationship with the manufacturer.

“At the end of the day, people deal with people,” says Hallam. “From our perspective, it is very important to have a partnership with a manufacturer who really values our business.

“Some manufacturers and finance companies find it quite difficult to grasp the fact that they are not dealing with one entity as such – clearly discussions in terms of the package are negotiated with one brand and the head office, but, essentially, it also involves dealing with more than 140 independent limited companies.

“A lot of companies find it difficult to get their heads around how that process would work, but Fiat Professional were very keen to understand our needs. The process is now establishing itself and is going rather smoothly."