Signalling the commitment behind Lex's aim to join the world leaders in customer service, the firm chose Disneyland Paris as the location for its annual conference. Appropriately, Disneyland has a great record of commitment to service.
Jon Walden told hundreds of employees at the Quest for World Class conference that key parts of the commitment included an absolute focus on the customer, the overall delivery of service and the 'people in this room'.
He said: 'We are already doing the right things and if we continue to improve them, then we will become a world-class company.'
Lex has already set up a business improvement team and an academy to offer employees structured personal development plans.
Senior staff from Disneyland (which employes 14,000 people from 92 nations), Jordan Grand Prix, Orange and DHL provided case studies of best practice and showed how they tackled the demands of providing high levels of customer service.
BBC royal correspondent Nicholas Witchell, who hosted the event, also carried out a series of interviews with staff about investigations they had undertaken into world-class companies.
The firm held the conference just weeks after announcing that it had secured a £1 billion deal with Business Partner, the contract hire arm of Ford Financial, which sparked predictions of a new wave of consolidation in the industry (Fleet NewsNet, January 8).
Under the deal, Lex Vehicle Leasing won a pioneering new outsourcing contract with Business Partner.
Lex will buy the Business Partner fleet and provide contract hire infrastructure services to the Ford family of brands (Ford, Jaguar, Land Rover, Mazda, Volvo and Aston Martin).
Sales and marketing will continue to be owned by Ford Financial and marketed as Business Partner. Fleets remain customers of Business Partner, with Lex providing all administration services.
Lex will fund and manage the existing fleet of about 20,000 vehicles, with revenues expected to reach more than £1 billion over the life of the seven-year contract.
Walden said: 'This is the largest contract ever won by Lex Vehicle Leasing. It is a pioneering contract and recognises the mutual benefit that a company like ours and Ford Financial can generate when they work as partners.
'It is a fantastic accolade for the people who work for Lex as it recognises the investment we have made in great customer service and industry-leading IT systems. We will be seeking to build upon this model to attract other potential manufacturer partners in the future.'
The increase in fleet size means that Lex Vehicle Leasing is the fifth company to break through the 100,000 vehicle barrier, with 120,000 vehicles. Lex joins Lloyds TSB autolease, LeasePlan, Interleasing and Lombard in a new superleague.
Andy Harrison, chief executive of the RAC, and senior Ford executives also attended the event, the latest in a long-term campaign of self-improvement.
In 2001, Lex first revealed plans to burst through the 100,000-vehicle barrier as part of a bid to become a world- class company by 2005.
At the time, Walden said it was vital to introduce new standards of service and training at the company (Fleet NewsNet, January 18, 2001).
Lex Vehicle Leasing's deal with Business Partner is part of a string of agreements that have been unveiled in the first weeks of this year.
Among them was the move by Arval PHH to take over Arma, which in the UK involved 1,100 vehicles. Across Europe, and mainly in the Netherlands, Arma has assets of €290 million and a combined fleet of 20,000 vehicles. Arval, part of banking and financial giant BNP Paribas, manages more than 600,000 vehicles in Europe.
And in a separate move, leasing company Powermarque was sold to Venson Group, which led to the announcement that Powermarque's Huntingdon headquarters were to be closed down.
The Venson Group had acquired Powermarque, a subsidiary of AWG, in a deal worth £34.5 million during the festive break. The acquisition of Powermarque, which has fleet management and supply contracts with AWG and other significant corporate and public sector customers, has added approximately 4,500 vehicles to Venson's portfolio.
And Leeds-based Zenith Vehicle Contracts, one of the UK's largest independent vehicle leasing companies, announced it had been bought by its management for an undisclosed sum this year. The team – managing director Andrew Cope, finance director Mark Philips and sales and marketing director Philip Jerome – has been backed by venture capitalist 3i.