Despite having a reputation worldwide for supplying the travel industry with electronic global distribution services, Galileo International's pan-European fleet totals just 200 cars.
The vehicles are based in Belgium, France, Germany, the Netherlands, Portugal, Spain, Sweden and the UK and to date Galileo has been unable to source discounts due to the relatively small fleet it operates.
However, Alison Christie, who is charged with the task of managing the fleet of vehicles, hopes that future growth will allow her the opportunity of reducing company fleet costs.
Immediate fleet expansion will come from US-based Galileo acquiring BA offshoot Travel Automation Services (TAS), which Galileo already used as a distributor but was a separate company. This will add an extra 98 vehicles to Christie's fleet, while Galileo is opening a marketing office in the Benelux region, initially creating seven new jobs with each offering a company car.
Christie, who has been fleet administrator for Galileo's UK and European fleet for eight years, said: 'We haven't got any buying power because our fleet is too small. In the future as the fleet grows I'll possibly be able to talk to manufacturers to see what deals they can offer the company, but that's the only way I can see us getting any discount. We have cars in the UK and spread over Europe but there's only a handful in some countries so fuel or full maintenance discounts aren't achievable. For discount I'll have to approach the manufacturer directly and say 'we want X amount of cars - what can you do?''
Galileo's pan-European fleet has a variety of vehicles, the majority Volkswagens in mainland Europe, used for three years or 40,000 kilometres, and, unusually for fleets, drivers can choose cabriolets.
'Two drivers in Belgium have chosen VW Golf convertibles, that's all' said Christie. 'But people with families want people-carriers. It's a user-chooser policy, staff are benchmarked on how much they can spend but under that figure can have anything they want.'
Typically, said Christie, managers across Europe are offered the same standard of vehicle, according to local marketplace demands.
In the UK, for example, first-tier management can choose a vehicle costing up to £23,000 (€37,200) and senior managers up to £45,000 (€72,960). Company cars are provided for management in the UK as a perk and are not used for business mileage. However, in the rest of Europe, cars are provided to sales staff for use on a daily basis to visit prospective and existing customers to sell Galileo's electronic products.
Those products currently connect thousands of travel agents with airlines, car rental companies, hotels, tour operators and major cruise lines throughout the world. 'It's important we give staff the car they want because they work hard and are being rewarded,' Christie said.
In the UK, Dial is the sole vehicle provider under a full maintenance agreement and Galileo also uses Dial's services in mainland Europe, including Spain and Portugal. However, in other European countries vehicles are also provided by market-based leasing companies.
'I've arranged my own deals in some of our European markets,' Christie explained. 'I've dealt with local leasing companies because they best know the market. We do use Dial in other parts of Europe and it also acts as my final back-up.'
Despite being a hi-tech innovator, Galileo does not insist its fleet suppliers adopt the same technological methods when dealing with the company.
For Christie, the most important factor is much more basic. 'It's the service level that really counts,' she said.
Dial also provides Galileo's UK fleet with fuel cards, but again, with such a small number of cars, Christie says there are no fuel discounts available. What the cards offer, she added, is convenience.
Christie hopes LeasePlan's recent takeover of Dial will reap Galileo financial rewards.
'It's created such a big company with massive buying power I hope some of the savings are passed on to us,' she said. 'Generally though, the takeover won't make any difference to Galileo and our dealings with Dial. I'm pleased with our relationship with Dial and I have found its open calculation policy detailing wholelife costs useful.'
Once TAS is fully under the Galileo umbrella, Christie will also deal with Highway Vehicle Management, which manages its 98-strong UK fleet. The cars are used by sales staff, and drivers are restricted to four- or five-door cars.
What happens with those vehicles in the future, Christie said, Galileo has not decided. Although national peculiarities across Europe can cause confusion to the role of fleet manager, Christie said the challenge of tackling those issues is rewarding.
'Being a fleet manager is an enjoyable and challenging job,' she said. 'Knowing what each individual countries' requirements are can be a difficult exercise but it adds to the fun. I am dealing with different people and different cultures, and staff in all of our countries have a lot to offer and know what they want.' (August 2000)