BVRLA chairman Kevin McNally's speech at the 2010 BVRLA dinner
Welcome to our Annual Dinner 2010
At events like this it is common for speakers to say - ‘It’s lovely to see so many familiar faces’.
After the year we have had, I think this phrase has particular meaning. Last year Nigel Stead stood here and spoke to around 600 BVRLA members and their guests. This year I am addressing around 800 of you.
I could stand here and claim that I can draw a bigger crowd than Nigel. But I think tonight’s attendance figure is more a barometer of how much more confident we are feeling as an industry than a result of my skills as an orator.
Speaking of Nigel Stead I want to pay tribute to him following his 2 years as Chairman. Nigel took the Chair in difficult times and showed us outstanding leadership and skill combined with real dedication to the role. He is certainly a hard act to follow. Please join me in thanking Nigel for his excellent work as Chairman.
I would also like to pay tribute to our Chief Executive John Lewis and his excellent team at Amersham. They work tirelessly and professionally on our behalf and I would like you to join me in thanking them all.
Looking back, we don’t need Gordon Brown, Mervyn King or a host of economists to tell us that 2009 has been the most challenging business environment our industry has ever faced.
The fact that the overwhelming majority of BVRLA members are still here in 2010 can be attributed to a number of things, particularly your own skill, determination and hard work and, I believe, the support offered by our association.
Another reason is the fundamental truth that, whatever condition the economy is in, people still need to use a motor vehicle on a regular basis. Our country could not survive without road transport.
Our industry continues to provide this essential mobility, but with added benefits that are even more attractive in a recession.
Vehicle rental and leasing allows organisations to fix their motoring costs and budget more accurately.
It lets them free-up scarce capital which can then be invested in growing their business or servicing debts.
It provides the ability to pay for a vehicle as it is needed – by the hour, day, week, month or year - giving companies the vital flexibility to cope with a rapidly changing business environment.
Although the vehicle rental and leasing industry’s value proposition remains as strong as ever, we enter 2010 with a number of problems that just won’t go away.
A chronic shortage of funding has been the most visible and persistent symptom of the credit crunch.
The last eighteen months has seen a significant number of key funders pull out of the market.
Something needed to be done, so we met with Lord Mandelson’s team and key representatives from the banking sector to ensure that they recognised the role our industry plays in funding the transport needs of UK companies.
They listened! - and although progress is slow the situation has materially improved. We will continue to support you in this key area and call on banks to do their job – support strong British businesses like ours, and our customers.
Finance may still be rationed, but there is another commodity that we have too much of. I am talking, of course, about legislation and red tape.
Whatever part of this industry you work in, this ever-growing compliance burden increasingly is having an effect.
It is against this backdrop that the BVRLA performs its key functions, acting as a voice for the industry and keeping members informed and advised.
It continues to spend much time in Brussels and Westminster, lobbying civil servants, ministers and Eurocrats in a bid to reduce the harmful impact of poorly designed or implemented legislation.
And there have been some notable successes. The association persuaded the Treasury to ensure that its new corporation tax arrangements reduced the accounting burden for business car owners and offered a real incentive for them to choose lower emitting vehicles.
For rental members it obtained a vital exemption from the ‘Cooling-Off period for distance selling’ portion of the EU Consumer Rights Directive. It also won the right for rental employees to be exempted from the need to record their driving hours on a tachograph.
Altogether, this lobbying has saved our industry an estimated seven hundred million pounds in potential costs.
One of the consequences of having a successful industry sector is that we often find others trying to muscle in and gain a piece of the action and a slice of the profits.
Your association has successfully defended our position on a number of such occasions in the past.
Unfortunately, this threat increases. As a consequence we have asked our sub-committees to review all initiatives to ensure that they bring sustainable and long term benefits to their sector. We support progressive commercial proposals – we reject the iron fist in the velvet glove!
To ensure that members are fully up-to-date at all times, the association has invested heavily in improving the way it keeps you informed and advised
The BVRLA website has seen usage levels rise by over 30% since its relaunch a year ago and this year we can look forward to a new improved online member and supplier directory.
Elsewhere on the digital front, the association has introduced new online publications on a range of topics including wear and tear, car rental, VAT and driving at work.
As tonight shows, we in the vehicle leasing and rental industry are a sociable lot and we relish the chance of meeting face to face with our peers on a regular basis, usually on the pretence of getting some work done!
Last December the association held its first all-embracing Industry Conference, where more than 130 members got some vital business insights from a range of senior industry figures and experts, including Nick Fry, chief executive of the victorious Brawn GP team.
Delegates heard first-hand how even the glamorous world of Formula 1 has not been immune from the effects of the global recession. Nick described how organisations can thrive and succeed despite the financial constraints placed upon them – something indeed we seemed to have learned!
Our sector may own and manage slightly fewer cars, vans and trucks than it did a year ago, but that is not how we should measure our achievements.
In spite of the challenges thrown at us over the last 12 months our industry has provided the vital vehicles, finance and mobility that have helped thousands of British businesses to survive.
We have helped them manage their use of road transport, making it safer, cleaner and more cost efficient.
We have survived the worst recession in living memory. We are stronger, we are fitter, and we look forward with great confidence to the future.