Johann Toubkiss lets out a surprising admission at the start of our interview.
“I don’t drive – I have no driving licence,” says the man responsible for managing Compass Group’s 680 cars and 400 vans.
“However, this gives me an unbiased view on the vehicles; I’m more focused on cost,” he adds.
Toubkiss was handed responsibility for the fleet in May 2009 as an extension of his buyer role which also includes HR, finance and travel duties.
Fleet takes up around a third of his time, with the emphasis on managing supplier relationships, strategy, duty of care and bringing together health and safety, personnel and finance departments to align their priorities.
Two years ago, Compass closed its internal transport department and outsourced the service to Lex Autolease. The catering and facilities management giant made a similar decision vexing other corporates: focus on the core product/service and outsource the non-core fleet to a third party.
“It represented opportunities with cost savings and efficiencies. It improved our internal controls for everything from CSR (corporate social responsibility) to a financial point of view,” says Toubkiss.
So far, around 64% of the fleet has switched to Lex Autolease with the remainder on run out with several leasing providers.
At the same time as reducing its leasing partners down to a solus deal, Compass also restricted the number of brands offered on the open-choice car list to Volkswagen, Audi and Vauxhall.
Last month, it replaced Audi with BMW and added Toyota hybrid vehicles to the list.
Toubkiss recognises that, for all Compass’s focus on cost control, its cars need to attract and retain staff in a highly competitive industry sector.
“The choice of brands means no compromise for employees,” he adds.
However, costs remain tightly on a leash and the environment is a priority.
All Volkswagens are Bluemotion, Vauxhalls are Ecoflex, BMWs are EfficientDynamics and the Toyotas are all hybrids.
“CSR is one of our core values,” explains Toubkiss. “That runs throughout the business. We are asked about this in tenders as well; we have to demonstrate what we are doing in these areas.”
Lex Autolease provides Compass with a report on each manufacturer’s performance – support, new models, sales, delivery times – compared to its competitors.
The report also includes a history of orders to identify the most popular cars.
It’s led to healthy competition – and improved terms. When former supplier Audi’s prices and lead times rose this year, Compass switched swiftly to BMW.
October was a big month for Toubkiss: he presented his fleet strategy plan to the Compass board. It signed off each one of his proposed initiatives during the one-hour presentation.
Among them was a plan to reduce CO2 emissions. The 2010 target is 140g/km; next year the goal is 135g/km.
Actions include managing the choice list to remove the high emitting cars in each grade – this policy saw the Insignia temporarily dropped until engine upgrades cut the CO2 emissions.
Compass will also drop its CO2 cap from 160g/km to 150g/km.
“This applies to everyone but it’s really only at this level for the top-end cars. Most cars are already below this cap – deliveries year to date average 127g/km,” says Toubkiss. “But it will help with our continuous improvement.”
The route to reduced CO2 emissions is not all about the stick approach, however.
Compass pays staff a one-off green allowance of £10 per gram of CO2 below 140g/km, rising to £20 for cars below 120g/km.
The maximum payment, for employees who plump for a car with emissions below 110g/km is £500, either as cash or to spend on car accessories.
All staff have bought in to the concept, which is intended to bring CO2 emissions below 100g/km as quickly as possible.
“Over three years this payment is a no brainer to us in terms of lower VED and fuel costs – we can recoup the cost easily,” Toubkiss says.
The board has also agreed to Toubkiss’s request to fit stop-start and speed limiters (either 60mph or 70mph depending on the vehicle and its usage) to its vans to cut emissions and improve fuel efficiency.
And it has sanctioned a move from three- to four-year replacement cycles for vans.
This will reduce the lease rate by an average of £300 a year; any increase in SMR costs will be “negligible”, says Toubkiss.