Former ALD head of OEM strategic partnerships John Wright has been appointed managing director at the newly-created Ford Fleet Management (FFM) UK, a joint venture between ALD and Ford which opens for business this week.
FFM enters a crowded sector for funding and fleet management. It intends to carve out a place by offering “bespoke solutions not one-size-fits-all”, focusing on larger companies with more complex needs, according to Wright.
Services will be offered across all manufacturer brands, not just Ford, and for cars and vans.
“We will have multi-brand capability across cars and vans. But we are Ford-branded, so, while we won’t push customers into any choice, there will be a natural favour towards Ford because that’s where the deep collaboration comes from,” Wright said.
“We don’t want to create just another leasing company or accept the way things have always been done – this business has to offer something different and the way to do that is to talk to our customers about their needs. We are adopting a start-up mentality, but as a well-funded company.”
He describes FFM as a “strengthening of our proven relationship” between Ford and ALD which started in the UK in 2011 with the launch of Ford Lease. The two have worked together in mainland Europe for 15 years.
Wright was responsible for the launch of Ford Lease, which targets small-to-medium enterprises (SMEs) through the Ford franchised dealer network. It will continue to operate as a standalone in the short term, but the back office will eventually be folded into the new FFM business. However, Ford Lease funding products will still be sold by dealers.
“Our new venture will fill all the gaps around Ford Lease,” Wright added. “This will be an integrated fleet management business, leveraging our position to understand the in-life relationships that manufacturers, typically, don’t enjoy.”
Customer ownership has been a much-disputed subject in recent years, with leasing providers and fleet management companies increasingly controlling the relationship.
Ford is keen to have a “deeper collaboration” beyond merely supplying the vehicle.
“We will take an agnostic approach – we don’t have a perfect target customer,” Wright said. “However, we see an opportunity with the larger fleets running LCVs that a leasing company might not look at; for example, those with highly technical needs or conversion requirements. We can play to our strengths in the van market – that’s gold to us as a fleet management provider.”
An additional appeal is the growth in demand for vans due to the impact of Covid and lockdowns on the essential services and home delivery sectors.
Consequently, uptime management will be a crucial part of the service, with FFM able to tap into the emergent connectivity and technology solutions offered on vehicles.
“Most Ford vehicles now have full modem capability, including Ford telematics, which will drive data into our business, enabling us to manage uptime proactively and, eventually, prognostically. In time, we’ll be able to predict events and manage them before they happen,” Wright said.
“We will also be able to tie in fixes with regular maintenance and scheduled servicing, bringing three or four events into one (workshop visit) for an uptime solution that doesn’t exist in the market.”
The data enabling FFM to accurately predict component failure is already available; the next step is to analyse it in sufficient quantity and figure out how to turn it into something meaningful for customers.
Wright anticipates being able to tailor the solutions by customer group having, for example, one set of rules for utility vehicles and another for home delivery vehicles based on usage patterns.
Growth aspirations are a closely guarded secret, but Wright says the objective is “less about unit growth and more about the quality of the conversations we are having with customers – that’s the key”.
He added: “While this is about growing the business for Ford, FFM exists in its own right. It’s been set up to be successful as a standalone business and we are recruiting a sales team to take the service out to market.”
Ford does not believe FFM will ruffle feathers among its other leasing company partners, and there are precedents already of manufacturer-owned multi-marque leasing providers, including BMW’s Alphabet, Volkswagen Financial Services and Toyota’s acquisition of Inchcape Fleet Solutions (now rebranded Kinto).
“We will not get preferential treatment (from Ford); it’s up to us to make the compelling offer to the customer,” Wright said. “It won’t affect Ford’s relationship with other leasing providers.”
FFM will offer a full suite of fleet management and funding services, including salary sacrifice, although companies do not need to be leasing customers in order to take the fleet management solution.
“We will look at all needs and create a solution for them,” Wright said. “We won’t discount any conversation.”
This article was first published in the December edition of Fleet News.