LeasePlan aims to start remarketing its ex-lease cars directly to consumers through a new ‘clicks and bricks’ offering that mixes online services and physical experience centres.
A UK launch date is yet to be confirmed but there are plans to have a number of experience centres across Europe before the year ends.
Fleet News understands customers will be able to buy used cars outright, lease or rent them through the new business. However, the leasing giant declined to comment on UK specifics for the new business, including questions on what percentage of LeasePlan’s UK risk fleet will be disposed of through this new route or how many experience centres will be in the UK.
The move puts LeasePlan in a similar space to dealer or manufacturer-owned leasing companies like Arnold Clark Finance and Volks-wagen Financial Services that have the ability to sell used fleet cars through their dealer networks.
Meanwhile, Lex Autolease, the UK’s biggest leasing company, did have its Car Select supermarket brand, but this was closed after it appointed BCA Marketplace to manage its remarketing towards the end of 2015. The Car Select brand retailed around 500 vehicles on site to the general public.
Fleet News understands LeasePlan is putting the onus on customers being able to browse online and will mix this with the ability to visit small ‘experience centres’ where customers can physically view stock.
The What’s Next brand campaign launched simultaneously across LeasePlan’s 32 global territories and coincided with an email campaign targeting 250,000 individuals with products and services.
The company increasingly rolls out global initiatives as part of its ‘One LeasePlan’ approach to business, which looks to leverage its global scale and a consistent approach across each market.
The What’s Next campaign has been supported by a three-minute video starring ex-Top Gear presenter Richard Hammond and LeasePlan is also introducing new services to small-to-medium enterprise (SME) customers in the UK such as Click & Drive.
Click & Drive offers SMEs the opportunity to lease a new vehicle and trade in their old one if they own outright. LeasePlan will manage the part-exchange process as part of the deal and cars can be taken with repairs, maintenance, administrative support and reporting included.
LeasePlan has taken on an extra 1,000 vehicles in a selection of trims and model types to support the Click & Drive service. As the cars have already been selected by LeasePlan it can cut delivery times down to “a matter of weeks”.
Tex Gunning, LeasePlan chief executive, said: “We are living through a mega change in which people are moving from owning their cars to using cars-as-a-service. In this fast-changing world, LeasePlan aims to be the company that knows and stands for what’s next.
“Ultimately, our ambitious goal is to provide a fully flexible ‘any car, anytime, anywhere’ service. For us, this is the future of mobility.”
James Dower, Cap HPI Black Book senior editor, said he can see how retailing out of ex-lease stock in Europe makes sense as its auction industry is not as developed as the UK. However, he said moving into the retail arena in the UK is not without its challenges.
“Lex was retailing out of stock as its disposal method but pulled the plug on that approach when it appointed BCA to handle its remarketing,” explained Dower.
“There has to be the preparation, finance and warranty controls in place. While there may be a higher top line profit at retail, you then have to look at the investment in staff, premises and training. You would also have to look at how confident consumers would be buying a used car online.
“Most will still want to come to the experience centre to see and touch the car before buying. We’ve seen customers buying online with new cars, but it’s not quite the same with used.
“You would also have to factor in how far a customer would be willing to travel to an experience centre to view a car.”
He said the quality of ex-lease cars can also vary quite greatly with some cars being “bright as a button, while others have had a very hard life”. It would then be down to LeasePlan to choose which stock was suitable to retail and which would go to auction.