Major car fleet manufacturing companies are missing sales opportunities and failing company car drivers with badly-designed websites, according to Sewells Research & Insight’s Manufacturer Website Evaluation.

The evaluation process involved 200 users, each tasked with making a free choice of company car and finding necessary information on 28 manufacturer sites. Individual experiences were corroborated by an independent mystery shop, with further assessment provided by a specialist within the industry.

The 10 judgement criteria for the websites tested included: navigation, reliability, usability, email response, live chat response, mobile phone experience, as well as tools such as dealer locators, car configurators, tax calculators and test drive bookings.

The findings revealed large disparities in terms of the usability of different sites as well as variations in manufacturer response rates.                                                                      

While Peugeot responded to most email enquiries within one hour, for instance, many other manufacturers could take up to four days to respond, with some failing to follow up their enquiries entirely.

Topping the website rankings, company car drivers awarded Hyundai’s website with the best scores for both ease of use and the simplicity of its test drive bookings system. BMW and Vauxhall ranked second and third respectively, with strong ratings for ease of navigation and effective benefit-in-kind calculator tools.

However, many high-profile brands were relegated to middling rankings or worse, with some sitting at the very bottom of the table.

The evaluation suggested the best car configurator tools can be found on the websites of Skoda, Kia and Land Rover. The best company car tax calculators, meanwhile, are provided by Vauxhall and Honda. Topping rankings for speed of email enquiry responses were Peugeot, Kia, Infiniti and Nissan.

Simon Staplehurst, commercial research director at Sewells Research & Insight, said: “Our research repeatedly shows that company car drivers start their search for a new car online.

“This report found that several major motor manufacturers are falling at this first hurdle, denying themselves and their dealers potential sales, and pushing interested customers into the arms of brands that have taken the time to assess and meet the demands of company car drivers.

"With fleet and business sales accounting for more than 57% of all new car sales in 2017, the ability to satisfy the web demands of company car drivers is an essential marketing tool for every manufacturer.”