Fleets ask suppliers: “Let’s write history together”
Just a few years ago, managing fleets – global or otherwise – was an almost exclusively male profession. That has changed, and for the better of the industry. For proof, look no further than the three female fleet talents in the second session of the Global Fleet Conference, discussing how to manage today’s global fleet challenges.
Steven Schoefs, Global Fleet editor in chief, moderated a panel discussion with Yuliya Lapenkova (European Fleet & Mobility Manager of the Year – Philips), Paula Diniz Oliveira (Global Head of Fleet – Zoetis) and Montse Empez (Chief Procurement Officer – Applus). First question: Which market is most difficult to manage?
“Latin America,” said Ms. Empez. “Due to price instability, but mainly because of the problem of car availability. We’re an engineering company, so we need very specific vehicle types.”
“One of the good things about Latin America,” offered Ms. Oliveira, “is that it is easier to find synergies of products and services than in other regions, notably Asia-Pacific, which is much more fractured. And, the Latin American market is getting more mature.”
“It’s a bit of a stereotype to say that Europe is the easiest fleet region,” said Ms. Lapenkova. “Yes, it is the most advanced. But eventually, you have to go down to country level, because each of those countries has a unique set of regulations.”
Focus on fuel
In terms of challenges, “every crisis is an opportunity”, she went on. “The chip shortage has given us some time to prepare for the introduction of EVs. And it presents an opportunity to shift to mobility solutions. Plus, the energy crisis has forced us to look even more carefully at TCO than before, also at global level.”
“As a company, we’ve committed to be CO2 neutral by 2030. In Europe, we’re moving into EVs,” said Ms. Oliveira. “Elsewhere, however, it’s still hard to predict when we will be able to do this.”
“We’re also moving towards carbon neutrality,” said Ms Empez. “We’re now working on Tier 1 and Tier 2. Soon, we’ll also be working on Tier 3. However, for tool cars, there are still too few models, and too little infrastructure. So we’re also focusing on reducing emissions in existing fleets, having a closer look at fuel consumption.”
“We’re now working on an electrification strategy, which will be slightly different per region,” added Ms Lapenkova. “BEVs or PHEVs? We need to be flexible…”
“Sustainability targets are implemented top-down,” said Ms Oliveira. “But it’s not that we need to convince our drivers. They’re asking us when they can expect them. They’re not coming fast enough!”
What can fleet suppliers do for their customers that they’re not already doing, Mr Schoefs wanted to know.
“We would like them to offer better tracking of vehicle use,” replied Ms. Oliveira.
“Faster reaction times, and more flexibility,” said Ms. Empez. “Yes, I know the chip shortage is not their fault. But especially the bigger players are often very slow to react.”
“Let’s be fair. Our suppliers are very good when it comes to market expertise. But I too am missing some more flexibility,” added Ms Lapenkova. “In facing the challenges of our times, we are writing history together, fleets and suppliers. Now is the time to be more flexible.”
Finally, what’s next on the agenda?
Montse Empez: “Sustainability. And then flexibility. The lease companies may not want to hear it, but we would like some other solutions than just long-term contracts.”
Paula Diniz Oliveira: “We will focus on data management. You need data to adapt fleets to new technology.”
Yuliya Lapenkova: “Definitely mobility. It’s the right time for it. It will help us reach our sustainability goals.”
“Exciting Middle East”
The session title was “Around the globe in 70 minutes”. A second panel discussion covered a region that had not yet been mentioned: the Middle East. “Perhaps not a region that is top of mind for many, but it’s a region characterised by a lot of innovation and disruption,” said Mr Schoefs.
“It’s an exciting region,” agreed Joaquin Domenech (Manager MEA, Geotab). “There are lots of opportunities in the oil and gas industry, but also in logistics – as much of what the region needs has to be imported.”
“In the field, sustainability in the Middle East can be a challenge,” said Ronan Ward (Regional category manager Fleet and Travel EAME, Syngenta Group. “Plus, the countries we operate in are very different – Jordan, Israel, Turkey. It’s important to have local fleet managers in place. Top-down changes need to be ‘bought in’ locally in order to be effective.”
“We believe in open data. It’s a very effective tool to operate across fractured markets like the Middle East,” added Mr Domenech.
So, what do Geotab’s fleet customers in the Middle East want? “They are focusing on safety and driver behaviour. But we’re also seeing interest from car rental companies in intelligent keyless systems. Overall, we see a strong trend towards innovation and new mobility solutions across the region.”
Interest in sustainability is growing in the region, but electrification is still in its infancy. “But I expect many initiatives to come soon,” said Mr Domenech. So, what’s next?
Springboard for expansion
“Telematics is definitely on the menu for the Middle East,” said Mr Ward. “We will be rolling this out as soon and as much as possible.”
“We already have a good network across the Gulf Cooperation Council countries. The United Arab Emirates is definitely the most open-minded country, and is usually the springboard for expansion in the region. We’ll soon also be starting operations in Saudi Arabia. Those two countries will be our focus – they have a joint commercial fleet of three million vehicles.”
Image: Benjamin Brolet