GE Capital Fleet Services: Electrifying fleet management – Arthur Mathysen Gerst

As one of the largest fleet service providers in the world, GE Capital Fleet Services offers bespoke leasing, fleet management and consultancy solutions tailored to meet companies' vehicle management needs. With growing customer demand for lower costs and a reduced carbon footprint, it has recently made a number of investments in electric vehicles, as Arthur Mathysen Gerst, managing director of its European division, explains.

What commitment has GE Capital made to electric vehicles (EV) and charging infrastructure for its European car fleet?

Arthur Mathysen Gerst: GE's commitment to electric vehicles starts at the highest level of the company. Our chairman Jeff Immelt is an advocate of the wide-scale adoption of electric vehicles (EVs) in order to drive clean energy innovation, strengthen energy security and deliver economic value.

Consequently, GE is focusing on creating a market for EVs through vehicle purchases; investing in infrastructure to support their deployment; driving consumer awareness through partnerships and advocacy; and investing in EV-related product development and RD&D, including venture capital in innovative new companies.

As evidence of this commitment, GE announced it would purchase 25,000 electric vehicles by 2015 for its own fleet and customers through its Capital Fleet Services business - the largest-ever single-vehicle commitment by any public or private institution.

We also offer fast, easy-to-use, award-winning EV charging solutions for both commercial and residential applications. The GE WattStation and DuraStation enable level two charging both at home and on the road and can fully charge batteries up to 24kWh in four to eight hours. This product addresses electrical grid challenges by significantly decreasing the time needed for charging compared with a level one charge.

GE is also working with existing utility customers to ensure a smooth transition to EVs and to manage the impact they can have on local and regional grids. This includes playing a key role in EV-related RD&D; to date, we have invested more than $150m in developing advanced battery technologies.

What value can multinational companies achieve when they have their fleet managed by a single global fleet management company?

Under the correct and disclosed contract conditions, customers should benefit from bringing together all of their needs in one place, resulting in a lower cost. Car leasing, especially, which is heavily linked to reward and compensation, also lends itself to standardisation across the employee population. The main benefit from GE's point of view is that as a sole customer you can access the systems, tools, people and products that we have spent the last four years investing in, even during the economic crisis. Our Key Solutions consultancy team is there to provide proactive support, advice and change management ideas for our customers.

How can GE support companies that want to own the vehicles in their fleet but have a third party managing them?

There is still a large proportion of companies that choose to own and control their own assets, which is something that we understand at GE. So, if a business decides to own its vehicles, we can offer supply chain support just as much as if we were leasing the vehicles ourselves. From acting as a purchase agent and providing support in obtaining the discount, to in-life maintenance management, driver liaison and control of costs, and disposal and maximisation of sales proceeds, GE will support the business in an identical way to how we would under lease conditions. After all, it's all about the reduction of costs by the application of our expertise.

What options do companies currently have when it comes to vehicle leasing?

In most markets the principles of leasing are similar - this involves taking control of another business's asset for a period of time over its useful life for a monthly fee. A major difference is whether the customer takes residual risk or reward and shows the asset on the balance sheet (financial lease), or lets the lessor take the risk/reward and the asset on its balance sheet, known as operational lease. In the US or the UK there are some more structured or complex options, but in the main, these two products, alongside outright purchase, dominate the market. In the operational lease segment specifically, we offer a product called Flex Key which gives our customers more control over lease rates and offers total transparency on the pricing and options available.

How can fleet management become more efficient and effective in an outsourced relationship?

Our parent company [General Electric] has a strong industrial background and clearly understands what it takes to optimise processes. GE Capital Fleet Services manages a significant portion of GE's employees cars around the globe. GE as a customer provides us unique insights on how we can continuously improve customer experience, as we are exposed to all the relevant strategic and tactical questions, from a customer's and supplier's point of view. It is important to highlight that although fleets across different multinationals look equal from a technical point of view, every company has its own unique situation and opportunities when it comes to the management of their fleet. Our strong focus on lean and high quality processes enables to significantly assess and fulfil our customer needs. For example, our Key Solutions fleet consultancy team has consistently delivered up to 15% year-on-year savings to our customers.

We want to offer our customers a unique service that on the one hand fits the customer's strategic plans, and on the other, enables them to reduce the total cost of running their fleet. As a large organisation, it is very important that we deliver our leasing solutions with the entrepreneurship of a smaller company. Our commitment must be tangible to every customer. We must continue to listen and understand what the customer wants and what's happening in the fleet management market. At GE Capital Fleet Services we do this via our driver and customer surveys, whereby customers evaluate GE as a service provider, and also via the customer advisory board (CAB), a forum where we openly talk with our customers about new needs and challenges.

What initiatives does GE have to help companies reduce fuel consumption?

GE recently introduced its Clear Drive programme. This unique, European initiative is a web-based eco-driving programme designed to promote safer, cleaner and cost-effective driving through a comprehensive, integrated series of web-based tutorials and e-alerts. The tool also allows fleet managers to view the fuel consumption of their entire fleet by business sector, geographical region, country or individual vehicle. Clear Drive was launched across Europe in June 2011 and is available in eight languages. It is commercialised to all our fleet customers and is not restricted to GE car drivers; Clear Drive can be utilised to any employee or car driver within the customer's organisation.


Arthur Mathysen Gerst, managing director of GE Capital Fleet Services' European division.