The job of fleet decision-makers has never been harder and leasing companies are having to adapt to meet new demands, members of the Fleet200 Executive Club heard.
Speaking at the club’s June meeting, held alongside Company Car in Action, at Millbrook, Bedfordshire, Tom Brewer, head of fleet sales and marketing at Volkswagen Financial Services said the industry was currently experiencing a “incredibly challenging environment” and a “spaghetti bowl of complexity.”
He told the seminar: “Remember when tax policy, Brexit, WLTP, Cazs and electrification was all we had to worry about? That was in the heady days of 2019. Things have taken a real turn and none of us could have known what would come next.
“In my opinion, your job as fleet decision makers has never been harder. Our job as leasing companies has changed beyond all recognition.”
Brewer said he was pleased that we were getting back to some sort of normality post Covid-19, but said many changes caused by the pandemic are here to stay.
Customers are seeking out better digital offerings as that’s what they’ve been used to in their private lives during the past year, he added.
“There is a rapid acceleration of digital – what we expect in our personal lives as consumers, such as buying things at the touch of a button and online shopping arriving on our doorsteps the next day. “We‘ve got every right to expect that in our business lives, people want the same digital experience.”
He added that this extended to what services fleets expect from their leasing provider.
“They still want to know how we manage our third-party suppliers etc and they still want a rapport with us as an organisation, but they also want to know how to integrate our software with their software, our fleet management system into their payroll management system, salary sacrifice ordering experience and the driver experience.
“Our IT department is now a huge component in our corporate implementation. Customers expect seamless integration between systems to create what should be a fantastic driver journey.”
Electrification has seen a widening choice of manufacturers on company car lists, Brewer said.
“We have also seen a trend of companies including more manufacturers on their car policies. It’s driven by the pace of battery and electric vehicle production and the range of vehicles that are available, some of which are very accessible.”
Brewer said the Covid pandemic has affected fleets in different ways.
“Remote or hybrid working is here to stay and that has consequences for fleet operators and drivers. Business mileages are falling – we’ve seen vehicles coming back later than than when they were scheduled to, but also coming back with lower mileages than anticipated.
“It’s a really evolving environment. We don’t think there is a ‘new normal’. We see sharply contrasting decisions being taken by our customers, some are accelerating towards carbon neutral car policies, either a mix of batter electric and hybrid and no ICE vehicles, but not everybody can do that.”
Brewer believes the jury is still out on whether we are experiencing a ‘rebirth of the company car’ but that he is seeing more drivers going back into a more structured company car scheme, whether previous cash takers or taking up a salary sacrifice employee benefit scheme.
However, he said: “Because of all the complexities and the various push and pull factors that are going on, it’s difficult to discern whether there is a rebirth of the company car going on or not – in some areas demand is falling and in others it is rising.”