Women in Fleet: steering fleets through COVID-19

8 mins read

Women in Fleet
Women in Fleet

We asked Michelle Coventry, Fleet Acquisition & Procurement Manager at Hertz, for some practical tips to keep fleet costs down, and about how new technologies are revolutionising the way they do business.

Whether you’re looking to buy your first work vehicle, expand your fleet or optimise your existing business plan, it pays to listen to the experts. In this Q&A series, we’re talking to women from across the fleet landscape and trades industries who know how to tackle serious business challenges.

Michelle Coventry manages purchasing and maintenance for Hertz across Australia and New Zealand. She’s the one to talk to about running fleets on an international scale. She’s also been helping steer her division through the turbulence of the COVID-19 era. So we sat down with her to talk about how she’s managed her fleets through the challenges, and what she thinks smaller businesses can do to get ahead.


Can you please describe a typical day in the life of a Fleet Acquisition and Procurement Manager?

We deal a lot with the US and Europe, so the morning is usually spent checking on emails from them. But being in rental, no two days are the same. So, for example, here in Melbourne things were going gangbusters and rentals were through the roof. We didn’t have enough cars. We were chasing cars every day. Then all of sudden, bang, lockdowns happen and that’s it. There’s no more, and we’ve got the reverse problem.

How have you tackled the challenges that COVID-19 has thrown your way?

I’ve never seen anything like it. Normally we would purchase around 10,000 cars every year, just in Australia. And probably about two to three thousand in New Zealand. Before Covid hit, we ordered all our cars. We were on track to do that. Then, back in March and April of 2020, we had to cancel 80 percent of our order. We just did not know what was going to happen. Luckily for us, people were cashed up and couldn’t get new cars. So everyone was buying used cars. That really helped us.

Then, in 2021, we’ve had trouble getting new cars to replace the used ones we sold. It’s sort of a vicious cycle. A lot of the manufactures are suffering from a couple of factors. There's an increase in demand from a retail point of view. But also there’s a massive issue globally about semiconductors. So, supply is down.

You just have to adapt. We’re sort of chasing everyone at the moment. We’re lucky, because we’ve got really good relationships with the manufacturers and they’ve really looked after us. Toyota in particular, they’re our biggest supplier. They’ve been great, and they’re really trying to help us out.


What positives have you seen emerge from recent times?

Everyone’s pulling together to do the best that they can. Last year, the suppliers helped us out when we needed to cancel. Then it was the reverse. It’s really about that relationship. You’ve really got to work together.

What future technologies do you see influencing the fleet landscape over the next few years?

We’re actually looking at working with Toyota to install some telematic technology for us. The biggest benefit of that is basically being able to hand over a digital key to a customer. So we can send them a message that they'll be able to digitally open the car without having to go to a counter and see us. Also, being able to track vehicles if they’re stolen. And simple things like being able to track kilometres and having access to that data...it’s huge. Then the next piece is the low-emissions side of things. And, again, Toyota does that really well. With the exception of some commercial stuff pretty much every model comes in a Hybrid.

Toyota for Business
Toyota for Business

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What have been the biggest positives over the last two years?

Everyone’s pulling together to do the best that they can. Last year the suppliers helped us out when we needed to cancel. And it’s the reverse this year, in that we’re working with them. It’s really about that relationship. You’ve really got to work together, and the last two years have shown how well we do that.

What are some simple things small business owners can do to optimise the efficiency of their fleet and keep abreast of change?

One of the things with vehicles, when it comes to efficiency, is to factor in your service intervals. If you’re running a fleet that’s an important one to look at because the more frequent the service intervals the more it’s going to cost you and it’s also more time off the road. So if you can get vehicles with longer service intervals, that’s a big benefit.

Also good to remember, that when it comes to depreciation, cheapest isn’t always best. Toyota is a good example. They’re not the cheapest cars in the market but their residuals hold up. Which actually ends up being cheaper for you when it comes time to sell. That’s critical.

But, I think the biggest things are: one, it’s looking at those residual values and, two, have a good relationship with whoever manages your supply. Those relationships are critical because in times like this, you need each other.

“When it comes to depreciation, cheapest isn’t always best.”

– Michelle Coventry, Fleet Acquisition and Procurement Manager at Hertz

A big thanks to Michelle for taking the time to speak to us. So, in the end, when it comes to running a fleet, it’s important to keep an eye on those service intervals and remember that the cheaper vehicles can actually end up costing you more in the long run. It’s also crucial to maintain solid working relationships with your suppliers. Because we need to work ever more closely together to get the job done.

For more insights on how to keep costs down as you build your fleet, how new technologies fit into the picture, and a closer look at how women are helping shape the trades landscape, read the next instalments in our Women in Fleet series here.


This information provided is of a general nature and for information only. Nothing in this article constitutes or should be considered to constitute legal, taxation or financial advice. Before making a decision about any of the products and services featured on this article, you should consult with your own independent legal, taxation and financial advisors, who can advise you about your personal circumstances.

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