A leading independent fostering agency is switching its fast-growing car fleet to Toyota – and its social workers have been surprised to find that the manufacturer’s new-generation petrol engines are as economical on fuel as their previous diesel-powered cars.

Midlands Foster Care Association (MFCA), based in Bromsgrove, provides foster care for ‘difficult to place’ children looked after by local authorities throughout England and Wales. It currently takes care of around 500 children and employs almost 200 staff, mostly social workers.

“In our business the children come first, and we provide therapy and education for them where required. We also provide a 24-hour support service for the carers,” says Steve Dolphin, Financial Director of the non-profit-making company, which started in 1994. “It’s a fast-growing business – we expect to employ around 250 people by this time next year,” he says.

Now the equally fast-growing fleet of around 150 cars, until recently made up mainly of Peugeots with some Nissans, is moving over to Toyota. “We have no experience of managing a fleet of vehicles and no internal resources to do so, so we have always relied on a contract hire company to do it for us,” says Steve. But following problems with the previous supplier the company decided to seek a solution through Dial Contract Hire, which was connected with MFCA’s bank Barclays and its vehicle management service BVMS.

The fostering agency’s cars are normally replaced within two and a half years: “We anticipate ordering 100 Toyotas in the first 12 months,” says Steve.

“We needed full-maintenance contract hire because we didn’t want our staff to have to cope with breakdowns and servicing themselves. Dial did a very good presentation on how we could manage the fleet better with a one or two-badge policy.”

Whole-life costs were examined rigorously. “We narrowed it down to Peugeot, Toyota and Vauxhall, and found that with Toyota the prices were right and so was the range of vehicles.”

Ten Corollas and one Avensis have already been delivered. “The reaction has been good, and people have been particularly surprised at the petrol consumption of the 1.6 litre Corolla,” says Steve Dolphin. “They had always assumed that the Peugeot diesels would be hard to beat, but now they are getting much the same returns with petrol!”

Toyota Previas will be used for transporting numbers of children. “We have quite a reputation for looking after family groups, and when a family group of six children are placed together in one foster-home they need suitable transport,” says Steve Dolphin. The new Yaris also looks set to prove popular, he says: “Several staff commented on how suitable it looks for our purposes, and we have a demonstrator on loan now.”

Mark Hall, General Manager of Toyota Fleet is pleased that Toyota has come out on top in terms of cost: “Everyone knows how tight budgets are in all sectors of the community but especially for organisations involved in care and social work. Toyota offers excellent value-for-money throughout its range; and from acquisition to final disposal few can meet, let alone beat, our whole-life running costs.”



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