Andreas Heinze has very clear views about the chances of a standardised approach to European fleet management.
Heinze, chairman of the board of the newly-formed e-Sixt which controls the Sixt group's internet activities, said: 'Unfortunately, as long as we have different taxes and laws there will be many stumbling blocks that will prevent a standardised European-wide fleet management solution.'
It would appear that Heinze prefers to operate in the virtual world rather than the real one. The reason: because the internet has no country borders and in the real world those borders are unlikely to vanish for a long time.
'We are still some way away from a united Europe in fleet management,' Heinze said. When entrepreneurs dream of grand solutions that can be applied to all countries and complain about the lack of pan-European solutions from manufacturers and leasing companies, then Andreas Heinze says he can only shrug his shoulders.
'The reason for this problem is not the suppliers but the European political bureaucracy,' he says. An example of this bureaucracy, he claims, is the fact a hire car registered in Germany cannot be rented abroad.
'And yet it does not make any sense that I, a businessman with offices in Munich and Paris, cannot operate standard fleets in both countries,' Heinze complains.
The picture would be very different, Heinze said, if different registration criteria, restrictions on vehicle imports, different taxes and discount rates no longer existed.
'Then we could also offer an intercontinental 'full service leasing range,'' he said. Since these options are firmly in place though, Sixt Leasing confines itself to what is possible: about 25 businesses are being looked after European-wide.
Those customers receive made-to-measure full service leasing or fleet management that takes in account country-specific conditions, including different regulations for company cars in individual countries.
'The individual national operating companies have also quite different requirements on the choice of products. There we have to react with a country-specific car policy,' Heinze explained.
As well as Germany, Sixt Leasing also operates in five European countries represented by its own subsidiary firms. It is present in Austria, France, the Netherlands, Switzerland and the UK.
Since buying Kenning Rental Group in England and Eurorent in France there no further acquisitions on the agenda. In a total of 25 countries, Sixt Leasing works with licensed partners.
'It is a good solution because it is not necessary to have to start your own company,' Heinze said.
He claims that many of the company's competitors that have their own large network complain that individual country operations 'do what they want anyway'.
Therefore Heinze believes it is better to be represented only in key countries, where subsidiary firms are closely tied to the parent company.
'Our advantage is that we can make necessary decisions immediately and translate them into a European-wide solution,' he said.
Sixt has expanded its internet presence and not only has e-Sixt revamped its site but it now presents itself as a complete provider of mobility services.
Via the homepage, private customers as well as companies can order rental cars, book package holidays or flights, buy or lease second-hand and new cars and manage their fleets.
As an internet portal for all mobile solutions and all customers, e-Sixt no longer distinguishes between the corporate or private customer.
Explaining this philosophy, Heinze said: 'Because the one who manages his company car as an employee of his company via our software during the day, can book his next holiday, as a private individual, in the evening.'
e-Sixt sells online solutions and uses the same infrastructure for the whole group: above all, the comprehensive Sixt network - more than 1,000 worldwide - and the call centre with the right contact person.
Of particular interest for enterprises is the on-line fleet management service. Users can call up all information on relevant regulations via the internet.
Accident forms are sent by internet and you can create your dream car with the online car configurator, compare it directly with other models and calculate the full service leasing rate.
Ordering the vehicle is also done through an online interface. The fleet manager has access to all relevant fleet data using the fleet control module at any the time and can identify any problems with just a few mouse clicks.
'That is the first internet solution that really shows the advantages of online fleet management,' Heinze claims.
By the end of this year, e-Sixt will make this online solution available to all European countries - because, as Heinze has already highlighted, the internet has no national boundaries. (July/August 2001)