Fleet News

Face to face: Leasedrive

IF you could put enthusiasm in a jar and sell it, then the Leasedrive Group would be a successful bottling plant to rival Coca-Cola by now.

In a room in the company's Crowthorne offices, a new management team is gathered, including some of the industry's most well-known figures – and they have some big ideas, starting with the modest target of 'rewriting the rules of fleet management'.

The medium-term impact of the new team is to have a 'dramatic impact' on the fleet management market, backed by state-of-the-art systems.

They also have a shopping list of some of the best talent in the fleet industry which they intend to bring to the company to help its expansion.

Last month, the team secured the firm a £45 million deal with a purchase covering Leasedrive Vehicle Management and Countrywide Vehicle Rental.

Roger Partridge, who has been with Leasedrive for most of its 20 years, has become chief executive officer while Roddy Graham joins as commercial director and David Bird has come on board as chief operating officer.

Graham used to be managing director of UK operations at Budget Rent a Car and was also behind the launch of Ignition Vehicle Management, while Bird is a former chief operating officer of Arval PHH and also held the same position at Shell Auto Finance. Partridge has been with Leasedrive Holdings for 17 of its 20 years, after the firm first started in 1983 and most recently was its managing director.

Between them they have a wealth of knowledge in the fleet leasing and rental market and together, they intend to spark major growth in the business.

The contract hire side of Leasedrive Holdings currently operates 3,200 vehicles for major customers, including sole supply deals with Microsoft, Orange and 3G. It aims to differentiate itself by focusing on providing a high level of bespoke customer service, through products covering contract hire, personal contract hire, sale and leaseback, contract purchase and accident management.

The Countrywide Vehicle Rental operation stakes a claim as the second largest short-term vehicle rental broker in the industry and is one of the largest buyers of corporate car rental in the UK.

Through its links with major rental companies it has access to 150,000 vehicles from more than 900 locations.

Clients are offered a transparent menu-pricing policy with no hidden surcharges and rates remain the same throughout the UK. It also offers a medium-term rental solution called Stopgap.

This all boils down to a steady, confident business, employing 98 people, but it was the management team's plans for the business that generated investment worth tens of millions of pounds from its backers.

Graham said: 'Historically, the company may not have had the investment that it should have had. Roger Partridge recognised the potential and he spoke to me about it and the decision to become involved was quite an easy one.

'In July last year, we heard that Shell Auto Finance was not going ahead with its project launch and I was free from Ignition Vehicle Management, so we all sat down together in October and it was a meeting of minds.'

He added: 'David Bird has a wonderful track record and Roger Partridge has already done a huge amount with the business. We thought this was a hugely powerful combination.'

They see their future business growth in serving the managers of large fleets whose needs larger suppliers may have struggled to meet.

Partridge added: 'We have only focused around the M4 corridor in the past because of the limits of our sales force coverage, but we now intend to stretch the sales function geographically, focusing on large blue chip companies.'

Backing this investment in growth will be new customer service and business management systems that the team believes are the best in the business. Partridge said: 'Fleet businesses need quality and attention to detail. We call it wrapping them in pink cotton wool.

'As an independent, we can bring the focus that a larger player might not be able to bring and that is how we have managed to keep our blue chip clients for so long.'

Bird outlined the new computer systems they would be introducing, based around a state-of-the-art asset finance, consumer finance and vehicle finance system called CHP Alfa, which also controls customer relationship management.

This system is woven into a bespoke vehicle management system from epyx, which includes its ground-breaking electronic vehicle procurement system 1link, along with the firm's electronic service and maintenance approval system.

By linking them together, argues Bird, the company will stand head and shoulders above rivals. He said: 'We are already getting interest. The most radical aspect is to link the systems together.

'We showed this to staff and there was just silence, followed by a collective 'wow'.'

Partridge added: 'We have got the investment in people and systems. It is early days, but it is difficult not to get excited. We are going to make waves in this industry from a position of strength.'

Leasedrive factfile 1983: Leasedrive contract hire business established
1990: Daily rental operations started
1991: Microsoft major corporate account signed
1993: Countrywide brand established
1995: Orange added as second major corporate account
1999: Leasedrive Holdings UK incorporated
2000: 3G corporate account win
2003: New senior management team at the helm. Leasedrive Group established.

Roddy Graham
Commercial director. Former managing director of Ignition Vehicle Management and of Budget Rent a Car UK. Former sales director at Highway Vehicle Management

Roger Partridge
Chief executive officer. Former roles include managing director and general manager. With business for 17 years and maintained unbroken record of profitability

David Bird
Chief operating officer. Previously chief operating officer of Shell Auto Finance and chief operating officer of Arval PHH, responsible for major growth

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