We discuss what’s trending at the moment as well as what’s coming up in the next year.
Able Magazine: What trends have you identified recently in terms of what’s hot for customers?
Declan O’Mahony: The hottest thing at moment are ‘crossover’ vehicles. If you look back about 10-15 years, there were three categories of car really: small, medium and large and gradually, over the last 10 years we’ve started to see some more interesting categories emerging. The Vauxhall Zafira and then the Nissan Qashqai have become very, very popular cars on the Scheme – just because they offer a great mix of practicality and price for our customers – as well as some features like a relatively high seating position and the space if you need to carry equipment.
Motability clearly have a good relationship with vehicle manufacturers. How is it decided as to which models get on the Scheme?
It’s almost as simple as the car manufacturers that participate in the Scheme, (and that includes pretty much everybody) put their entire range on Motability. We both recognise that the variety of our customers, in terms of what they need and what they like, and what they aspire to, is at least as diverse as the rest of the population. What we try to do is to make sure that there’s a wide range of affordable cars on the Scheme. There are currently over 2,000 models that our customers can choose from.
Do you think that enough disabled people know about the Scheme and understand it?
It’s a continual challenge. The fact is that two million people could use the Scheme, ie: they’re eligible for the higher rate of DLA or PIP and we’ve got about one in three of those people (about 650,000) currently choosing to use the Scheme. The thing we don’t know with certainty if you look at the other two thirds is why people don’t use the Scheme; is that because they can’t afford to do so or is it because they prefer to own their car? Is it because they’re not sufficiently aware of the Scheme or they have some awareness but that they don’t really understand the detail, like the fact that everything is included such as the insurance? It’s a constant challenge which we try to meet through the website and through mailings, through disability organisations and through the dealerships. The dealers are a really key part of this because they’re on the ground locally. They know the local disability groups and they understand what media works in each area so we try to reach people to make sure that they’re aware of the Scheme and they understand the basics about it but if nothing else, the churn of people in and out of the allowance system is like painting the Forth Bridge.
How important is the charitable aspect of Motability?
It’s very important for the obvious reason that because we’re a charity we do some fundraising and we can make grants available so that people who can’t afford the vehicle they need on the Scheme are enabled to get it.
It also reassures customers that we have no commercial interest and that the Scheme exists just to make sure that customers will get good value on the car, backed up by good customer service and that we’re not trying to make a profit or a pay dividend on the back of that. Everything on the Scheme exists to look after the customers’ interests.
What’s new for 2016?
Wheelchair accessible vehicles (WAVs) is one area where we’ve recognised through our customer feedback, that sometimes customers feel slightly dropped between the vehicle converter and the dealership of whoever made the original vehicle. We’re doing a lot of work at the moment to make sure that those customers are better supported with things like an annual vehicle check and updated information on how they can choose the right vehicle as well as touching base with them a couple of weeks after they’ve taken delivery of the vehicle.
We’re looking at vehicle technology at the moment. It’s moving on in leaps and bounds. People talk about driverless cars but that’s really a combination of different technologies and plenty of those technologies are out there already – things like autonomous braking, for example. We’re trying to make sure we understand that technology so that we can make forecasts about which of that technology is going to be of most interest to our customers and that the Scheme can offer those technologies as soon as they’re available, hopefully at a level where people can afford it.