Fleet News

Britain's biggest set for European growth

Lloyds TSB autolease may have only recently become the UK's biggest leasing company, topping this year's FN50 guide to Britain's contract hire and leasing industry, but it now has its sights firmly set on Europe.

The company has a 137,000-unit funded fleet in the UK and took top spot after a series of acquisitions. Now it is looking to grow its fleet even further after joining a global alliance of vehicle leasing and fleet management companies.

The Birmingham-based company became one of the latest members of the Fleet Synergy International alliance earlier this year.

Across the globe, FSI members collectively manage more than 600,000 vehicles and operate under the strapline of 'local partners meeting global needs'.

When executives at Belgian-based Fleet Synergy International, (formerly called Interleasing), first met with representatives of Lloyds TSB autolease to discuss the possibility of the company joining the alliance, they had no idea it was about to become the UK's biggest leasing company after acquiring First National Vehicle Holdings.

'The timing could not have been better,' said FSI regional sales director Hans Damen. 'We were already excited about Lloyds TSB autolease joining us and then it became the UK's biggest with a total fleet size, including managed units, of 160,000 vehicles.'

Now part of the FSI network, Lloyds TSB autolease is keen to grow its presence in Europe – but executives are keeping their European ambitions close to their chests. Peter Schofield, head of strategy and product development, said it was important the company did not try to run before it learned to walk.

He said: 'Lloyds TSB autolease has always had a European strategy so the recent take-over and the fact we have also joined FSI at the same time was not planned.

'We did some research last year into the European market and we decided joining this alliance would provide a better solution for our customers than attempting to go it alone in Europe, which would have meant considerable time and investment.

'It's important we help our customers manage their costs and we can achieve this by being part of Fleet Synergy International. It has the knowledge and expertise that it will share with us.

'I don't want to put a figure on how many extra cars we hope to have as part of our FSI membership. The first year is more about creating relationships and working together rather than numbers. However, while the word aggressive is the wrong one to use when talking about European expansion, we are certainly committed and focused.'

Sales director John Given added: 'We are keen to have a presence in the bigger European markets, such as France and Germany. Italy and Spain will follow, as will other smaller ones.'

Lloyds TSB autolease is also excited at the prospect of playing a role in developing the relationship with US-based Wheels Inc.

The FSI American partner has more than 195,000 vehicles under lease and another 55,000 under management.

'With many US firms setting up operations in the UK, having an association with a company like Wheels will be of great benefit to us,' said Given.

Schofield said its association with Fleet Synergy International now means the company can, for the first time, offer its existing and new customers a 'European solution'.

'We have been asked by many customers about whether we offer such a solution but in the past we haven't been able to,' he said.

'I believe a lot of talk in the past about a 'pan-European solution' has been misguided. They are all quite different markets and there is not just one solution. That's where FSI's expertise comes in.'

Given said Lloyds TSB autolease's membership of FSI gave it bigger buying power across the globe.

'It's great for negotiating with car manufacturers and for other things like tyres,' he said.

However, he stressed it was important to not 'over promise' to customers, noting that many fleets had been disappointed in the past that savings achieved through a pan-European leasing arrangement were not as great as they had anticipated. People wrongly think that huge savings are achievable,' he said, 'but that is not always the case. What it does do though is allow the sharing of knowledge and best practice, which can reduce customers' costs.'

Damen added that having the knowledge of local markets' different operating practices meant the alliance could avoid burdening customers with unnecessary costs. And Schofield said: 'I think the timing of us joining FSI is exactly right. We want to learn about e-commerce services offered by other members, the Euro can only strengthen what we do and any changes to block exemption could lead to more cross-border opportunities.'

FSI says that each of its partners is a leading player within its own national market. The alliance adds: 'They are supported by an electronic communications network plus a dynamic database of country-specific fleet market information. By working together and in conjunction with key suppliers, the partners offer services and programs, along with support and advice, to help clients increase fleet effectiveness and control their costs throughout the world.'

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