Fleet News

Industry calms fleet fears as further consolidation looms

THE biggest shake-up in the history of the contract hire industry has prompted suppliers to calm fleet customers' nerves over the potential effect on service levels.

Leading industry figures are predicting that a record level of buying and selling in the industry is set to continue for several years making constant change the norm. The comments come after ACL autolease and sister company Motorent became the latest companies to be put up for sale.

Simon Richmond, managing director of ACL autolease said: 'Companies in the industry are changing hands more quickly and the pace of change does not look like it will decrease.

Recently, Lease Plan announced it was taking over Dial, placed fourth in the Fleet News Top 50 on Britain's biggest contract hire firms, while Arval has launched a partnership with PHH.

Great Universal Stores is today expected to announce details of bidders for its subsidiary Highway Vehicle Management and NatWest-owned British Car Contracts continues to be a focus of attention.

Royal Bank of Scotland bought NatWest for £21 billion in February, and this week Eion Flint, BCC's managing director, reassured customers nothing had changed and the firm would remain in NatWest's hands.

Last week, the Royal Bank of Scotland announced it was consolidating its vehicle finance arm RoyScot Trust, under the Lombard brand of NatWest, with the loss of 200 jobs at RoyScot's Cheltenham office.

There is no shortage of companies looking to expand through acquisition, with Powermarque looking to double its size with a purchase this year, Sovereign Fleet Services advertising for new conquests and Associates Fleet Services also on the acquisition trail.

Norman Donkin, director general of the BVRLA said: 'I cannot recall a period with so much buying and selling activity and I see no reason for the pace of change in the industry to slacken.'

Dial is predicting its sale to Lease Plan will leave customers better off by opening access to a wider range of services and increased funding.

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