Fleet Logistics: growing gains - Rainer Laber
The acquisition of Fleet Logistics by TÜV SÜD created one of Europe's largest fleet management companies: its portfolio now boasts upwards of 126,000 vehicles, while its presence is felt in 24 countries, increasing to 70 through the legal network of its parent company. Here, CEO Rainer Laber discusses its clients' growing demand for standardised services in new regions.
Expectations on the quality of fleet management services are escalating as businesses become more acclimatised to new foreign markets.
Navigating new regions is now a formality for many multinational companies. However, while uncertainties about what to expect from local logistics providers remain, there is now a growing demand among businesses that fleet management services are standardised no matter where in the world they are operating.
As one of the only fleet companies to have operations in northern, western, central and eastern Europe, Fleet Logistics' presence on the continent is the most complete in the industry.
Demand in new regions
Already spread across 24 European states, its well-established coverage has not stalled an appetite for growth, and clients now have access to services in Poland, Hungary, Romania, Greece and Russia.
The Polish office was only set up last year, yet already the investment is paying dividends, with one international client's first order consisting of more than 200 cars. The country is targeted as being a particularly lucrative market for Fleet Logistics, and, by mid-2014, more than 2,000 automotives are expected to be managed by the Warsaw office.
As well as the countries already mentioned, an office in the Czech Republic has also been opened, and access to new markets has been in part facilitated by the recent acquisition of Fleet Logistics by TÜV SÜD.
"The opening of our office in the Czech Republic was the first real example of us working with the existing network of the 70 separate legal entities of our parent company, so that we are completely integrated within its operations," says Rainer Laber, CEO. "The speed of our growth, both in our managed fleets and our consultancy projects, shows we are continuing to meet our customer expectations."
The recently opened Prague office will service new and existing customers in the Czech Republic, as well as neighbouring Slovakia. By taking advantage of the TÜV SÜD infrastructure already in place, such as human resources, accounting, and management support functions, the office has the goal of increasing the existing 440-strong vehicle fleet to around 1,000 by the end of 2014. The move followed requests from a number of international fleet customers with subsidiaries in the country for Fleet Logistics to establish a presence there, allowing them to benefit from the solutions and services they receive elsewhere across Europe.
It's a process that was made possible through the work conducted by the business development team, led by development director Marcus Hennecke. For a population of four million situated next to Germany, Europe's largest fleet market, the Czech Republic's leasing sector is relatively small, with roughly 100,000 vehicles.
But this has not deterred the business development team, which has been quick to tap into the market of national businesses, although its primary focus remains on developing current international customers.
"This is very much what we had in mind during the acquisition, and using the TÜV SÜD network in this way will allow us to expand quickly into the other countries we have targeted. It's a springboard for market entry in other regions," says Laber.
Regional disparities have little effect on the consistency or quality of the service provided by Fleet Logistics. This is in part due to the standardised IT platform made available to clients, which has seen significant investment since the acquisition in 2012 and which has several high-energy projects currently under development. The technology suite is available in all major European languages and includes modules such as the 'Fleet.Online' driver portal and the 'Fleet.Order' programme for online vehicle selection.
Fleet Logistics' acclaimed IT platform demonstrates its commitment to customer service and the breadth of its industry experience, and these values extend to the introduction of a new consultancy service, which exists independently from the company's outsourced fleet management and global reporting solutions. It's an initiative that has already proved popular across the pharmaceutical, consumer and industrial chemicals sectors.
Launched in January off the back of 20 years of industry expertise, the consultancy is designed to help customers understand topics such as the mechanics behind financing a fleet (including self-funding versus leasing), manufacturer tenders, managing smaller convoys and the issue of broader corporate mobility.
"Our aim is to offer advisory support to any type of fleet operator, and we are seeing high levels of interest from international and national firms for this consulting service. Typically, the first topic covered is the introduction of the appropriate car policy," says Thibault Alleyn, director of fleet and mobility consulting at Fleet Logistics.
"Demand is coming from fleet operators with very different profiles and acquisition methods, some of whom are typical Fleet Logistics customers while others are not. We have now embarked upon a remarkable number of consultancy projects across a broad spectrum of fleet issues."
The high level of interest and enquiries into the scheme has meant Fleet Logistics is now involved in a number of strategic developments with international fleet operators, including those that look at car policy benchmarking, fleet scans, pan-European fleet optimisation and leasing company selection.
As well as this deep involvement with its clients, the consultancy has also been providing advice to customers on complicated topics such as life cycle cost and residual value benchmarking for manufacturers, design of products and services along with their fleet penetration for fleet suppliers, and intra-company fleet management and remarketing for national sales companies and importers.
The value of the service resides in the decades' worth of industry experience on hand and a sustained presence in more than 70 countries worldwide through the TÜV SÜD network, as Alleyn explains: "It's driven by the deep relationships and expertise of our parent, TÜV SÜD, which has over 60 years of partnerships in the automotive industry.
"Until now, there have been very few companies in the market with deep fleet proficiency that could offer independent advisory services on an international level, while even fewer have the in-house expertise to link strategy to execution and measurement.
"We are as equally focused on creating a holistic vision for the fleet as we are on ensuring that ideas can be turned into reality. Thanks to our operational know-how, we know which strategic initiatives can be effectively implemented and generate a return."
Spurred on by early successes in new territories, plans have already been drawn up to open offices and expand operations into other regions, including Israel, Turkey and Brazil.
"We do have other countries where we have established a presence and are about to announce new offices and operations," says Laber. "These are in new regions for us and more details will be made available soon."
If previous experience in launching new offices, and the industry expertise displayed throughout the consultancy service, is taken into account, then matching the basic demands of multinational clients should prove simple for Fleet Logistics. The real challenge lies in maintaining such a high-quality service.