American Honda’s Associate Lease Program Runs Smoothly with the Flexibility of Fleet Response Processes

• Many of the vehicles in Honda’s program are leased by associates for personal use
• Program includes management of driver eligibility, safety, claims and repairs, and subrogation
• A client-specific repair network assembled by Fleet Response assures use of OEM-certified shops
• Easy access to data helps Honda measure, improve and plan for the future

A few years ago, American Honda Motor Co. Inc. put its claims management and safety contract up for bid. Its needs were different from the typical fleet management program for one important reason: As an auto manufacturer, it didn’t require the lease-finance services that are the primary profit center for many fleet management companies.

But it needed everything else a typical self-insured fleet needs – and then some.
Many of the 14,000 passenger vehicles in question are leased by company employees under the manufacturer’s generous associate leasing program. So there was a consumer-service requirement beyond the typical needs of a self-insured fleet.

“We want to treat our associates like a customer. We strive to provide a good customer experience,” says Julio Tapanes, Assistant Manager of CVA Operations (Company Vehicle Administration) at Honda. “To help prevent any potential disruptions in their eligibility to drive a company vehicle, we provide them with courtesy notifications about any status changes that may need attention. At the same time, the associate lease car is a company vehicle. In essence, this is a privilege, and there needs to be adherence to the policies and procedures established by the company.”

A customized program
After evaluating the options, Honda awarded the contract to execute its program to Fleet Response, beginning in 2018. Tapanes says it won the work based on the ability to customize every aspect of the program to Honda’s precise needs – from incorporating its proprietary driver risk-rating system, to overseeing repairs through a custom network of Honda-certified repair facilities, to subrogating accident claims, to communicating directly with drivers to help them maintain eligibility.

“They provide exactly the program we need,” Tapanes says. “It starts form the very beginning, where they ensure that our drivers are eligible under the company’s standards.”

That means annual MVR (Motor Vehicle Records) scans and validating drivers’ licenses for all authorized drivers under the program.

Like many self-insured fleets, Honda developed its own point system to rate drivers, which Fleet Response manages. It takes into account MVRs and claims history. It doesn’t include vehicle telematics, though that’s a capability Fleet Response offers.

If a driver’s risk rating increases, Fleet Response provides early warnings for the driver and Honda, and manages communications to mitigate the issue, including targeted safety training through Fleet Response’s online training program.

It also has configured a system to Honda specifications that would provide targeted safety training to drivers who have been involved an accident.

Claims and repairs
Honda self-insures the cars it leases, and it depends on Fleet Response to manage claims in a way that serves both the drivers and Honda.

For drivers, Fleet Response’s call center handles initial reports at the accident scene, which includes calling emergency services and vehicle towing as needed, as well as helping the driver get safely to his or her destination. It also involves collecting crucial accident-scene details to facilitate successful subrogation where applicable.

“They also established a great repair network for us,” Tapanes says. “When there’s an accident, they locate the body shop, manage the quote process and arrange a rental vehicle for the associate while the car is being repaired.

“These vehicles are utilized for up to a two year period and then they’re pulled back in for resale, so we have customized the repair process. They’re repaired using only OEM parts and by OEM certified repair facilities,” says Jeff Fender, Vice President, Sales & Marketing, at Fleet Response. “We have created unique working parameters for other clients so customizing a program specific for Honda was something we felt very confident about doing.”

Data on demand
One facet that has made the program work so smoothly, according to Tapanes, is the Fleet Response VISIBILITY online portal, which gives him immediate access to all records – from MVRs to claims files and subrogation to safety training.

“We do all our claim approvals in VISIBILITY. It’s fast and easy,” Tapanes says. “The CVA Department handles numerous inquiries regarding claims and safety trends, so it’s a great benefit to have a reporting tool that provides this data quickly and accurately.”

Overall, Tapanes says Fleet Response has been an easy partner to work with. The relationship has worked so well that Honda’s other U.S. subsidiaries have also started working with Fleet Response to manage their associate lease programs.

“They provide exactly the program we need,” Tapanes says. “They understand our unique needs and they create solutions. We rely heavily on the services provided by Fleet Response. Whatever they commit to doing, they work with their team and make it happen.”

Fleet Response provides highly customized fleet management services for several automakers as well as private fleets.

To discuss how they can build a program to meet the unique needs of your organization, contact Jodie Varner, Vice President of Client Engagement at Fleet Response,