ONE of Britain's biggest leasing companies, ALD Automotive, has signalled a renewed round of consolidation in the fleet industry with plans to expand its fleet significantly in the next three to four years.
The company has already seen its fleet size double to more than 40,000 vehicles after its parent company, Societe Generale, acquired Hertz Lease in March.
Before the acquisition it had a fleet of 21,019 vehicles and was listed at 18th in the FN50 list of the largest companies in the British leasing industry.
With the acquisition now establishing ALD as a top 10 company, its aspirations are to continue its growth and become one of the industry's largest players, indicating an intention to double its fleet size in the next three to four years.
Keith Allen, managing director of ALD Automotive, insisted the company was not simply focusing on fleet size, but was aiming for a 'critical mass' to achieve its aims and also reflect the position it holds elsewhere in Europe.
Allen said: 'Societe Generale has been very supportive of ALD in the UK and is very committed to the car leasing and fleet management markets across Europe. It is keen to see further expansion to help to raise the profile and recognition of the brand and we are confident we can help them achieve this in the UK. Already we are being considered for contracts that wouldn't have come our way when we were smaller.'
He added: 'We will see some organic growth, but realistically, achieving this goal can only be done through acquisition. Even though service levels can vary between companies, there still seems to be a loyalty among their customers which limits business wins.
'While maintaining our existing customer portfolio remains fundamental through providing them with the highest level of service available in our industry, acquisition will be a key part of our strategy.'
The 2002 FN50 revealed that to be a top five leasing company, a business needs a fleet of more than 90,000 vehicles, compared to 52,000 in 1998 and 39,400 in 1994. At the same time, the smallest firm in the list dropped from 4,493 vehicles in 1998 (the first year the league table included 50 companies) to 2,000 last year, a decrease of 55%.
The top 25 companies between them ran 1,192,565 vehicles, or 89% of the market, compared to 1998 when the top 25 had 916,201 vehicles and 81% market share. The combined fleet size of the bottom 25 firms dropped from 210,998 in 1998 to 143,529 today, a 32% fall.