Fleet News

Leasing or mobility – where does one stop and the other take over?

Many leasing companies believe they already operate in the mobility market – after all, they provide a means of employees getting from A to B through company cars, daily rental vehicles and, in some cases, car clubs/corporate car sharing.

The next stage is to offer mobility as a service (MaaS), which integrates all forms of travel (including public transport, taxis, car- and bike-sharing), journey planning, ticketing and travel information into one mobility app or software platform with a single payment system.

Free2Move Lease, which sits at number seven in this year’s FN50, is arguably the furthest down this path. Its parent company, PSA Group, launched the Free2Move app in February last year, which gives users access to a shared car, scooter or bike from a range of partners.

The app has been downloaded by more than a million customers in 14 countries (including the United States, France, Belgium, Portugal, Germany, Spain, Italy, the UK, Sweden and Austria).

Users are able to compare features, price and location and access the vehicle of their choice immediately or reserve it for future use.

However, Duncan Chumley, managing director at Free2Move Lease, acknowledges that the app is “in its infancy” in the UK.

“At the moment it’s focused on London but you can use it within Europe as well,” he says.

“We’ve still got to develop it, particularly around our electric vehicle strategy.”

"Increasingly cities will begin to shut the doors to people in the non-urban area accessing the city in diesel cars...and, therefore, there will have to be a stop-off point where people switch mode of transport or switch vehicles, switch to a shared electric vehicle to go into the city and come back out, almost like a park and ride.” John Saffrett, ALD

MaaS interests many others

Other major leasing companies are also exploring MaaS. ALD Automotive, for example, is providing a dedicated pool of car-sharing vehicles to users of MaaS Global’s Whim app in Helsinki, Finland.

John Saffrett, chief operating officer at ALD, says: “Our ambition is to be at the forefront of changes in mobility and partnering up with MaaS Global will enable us to benefit from the company’s experience and expertise in the field of mobility as a service while broadening our presence in the consumer market.”

In the UK, ALD is in discussions with Whim (which currently operates in the West Midlands) and other MaaS providers.

Technology providers are also entering this space. Fleetondemand has launched a MaaS app for businesses, called Mobilleo, which allows users to find, book and pay for their entire business journey (including parking, car hire, flights, trains, accommodation, restaurants, airport lounges, car clubs, buses and taxis), in one transaction.

The desktop version allows fleet managers to adopt mobility policies and drill down into the data at an employee level to identify total cost, behaviour and if there have been any breaches of the travel policy.

John Pryor, chairman of fleet operator association ACFO, believes businesses are becoming more interested in measuring the ‘total cost of mobility’, and are looking at pulling together fleet, travel and expenses, which currently often sit in ‘different silos’ within a company.

He believes the introduction of clean air zones/low emission zones, the ever-increasing congestion on UK roads and demand from employees for alternatives to the company car will drive businesses to “view travel in a different way”.

However, much depends on whether a business and the journeys its employees make are rural or urban, and on infrastructure in the UK.

Mobile phone and car graphic

Tim Porter, recently retired managing director of Lex Autolease, says: “Fleets are increasingly becoming more aware of MaaS, but most view it as unsuitable for current operational and business needs, especially outside of London and major cities where transport infrastructures are less well developed. While the use of apps for travel planning and expenses are more commonplace, this is far from the fully connected, autonomous mobility solution that many envisage.”

ALD head of consultancy Matt Dale believes that MaaS isn’t fully developed in the UK yet in terms of all forms of travel being integrated and a single payment for the total journey.

“MaaS will not truly exist until there is an open service that allows all forms of transport, be they public, private, consumer, ride sharing etc., to be connected and accessible,” he says. “Fleets are starting to look at the options for more integrated transport solutions and how they can service and support the employee who lives and works within a major conurbation or beyond.”

Saffrett believes there will be two mobility models: an urban mobility model, which is very integrated and combines with the public transport, and a non-urban model, which will primarily be about a “one-to-one use of the asset”.

He suggests that in the latter case, the driver will use their personal car to reach a city and then access the mobility offer.

“I think increasingly cities will begin to shut the doors to people in the non-urban area accessing the city in diesel cars, for example, in the future and, therefore, there will have to be a stop-off point where people switch mode of transport or switch vehicles, switch to a shared electric vehicle to go into the city and come back out, almost like a park and ride,” he says. “I think it will evolve in that way, there isn’t a one-size-fits-all.”

He adds: “You ask 10 mobility consultants to define mobility and you get 10 different answers today. That is okay because there isn’t one model that is going to work for everyone and this is about bundling the right set of services for the client going forward.”

Chumley believes it is much easier for leasing companies to “generate a business model that works” in urban areas.

He also suggests there is an opportunity for leasing companies and fleet operators to encourage company car drivers to rent out their cars when they are not being used in the same way that people now rent out their houses through Airbnb. However, this is dependent on having the right permissions and technology platforms in place, and may require incentives to be offered to drivers, such as reduced lease costs.

Little change for job-need vehicles

Leasing companies and fleet operators agree that job-need vehicles which already have high utilisation rates and require drivers to carry tools and equipment will remain largely unchanged by ‘mobility’.

Pryor says: “In terms of job-need car drivers – such as service engineers required to carry tools and other equipment to jobs – and light commercial vehicles, it is difficult to envisage anything much different from the current model.”

Take British Gas, which operates a fleet of 12,000 vans, for example. 

Its head of fleet Steve Winter says that due to the size of fleet, he and his team simply don’t have time to get involved in travel.

However, there is a requirement for job-need fleets to consider last-mile distribution – either by electric van, scooter, cycle or even using drones.

Jon Lawes, managing director of Hitachi Capital Vehicle Solutions, says: “We’re working with a range companies who are focused on a last mile distribution model, and are providing smaller EVs (electric vehicles) to deliver to urban areas and hubs on the outskirts of city centres. Whether its cars or vans, this is key for us to provide to customers.”

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