Global Fleet Survey: Asia is resetting its economy
Global Fleet is continuing its tradition of surveying the corporate fleet ecosystem. This year’s edition of the Global Fleet Survey however is a special for a few reasons.
The pandemic has changed tactics and strategies, of course, but has also accelerated initiatives that were initially not part of the 2020 agenda. Fleet Managers anticipate a decrease of fleet sizes, a bigger uptake of mobility solutions and more connectivity.
Read more about the “trigger year” in the 2020 edition of the Global Fleet Survey, which can be purchased by clicking on this link.
For the first time in over 60 years, growth in Asia is predicted to stall at zero percent in 2020 (figures: IMF), in sharp contrast with contracting economies in the United States (-6%) and Europe (-6.6%). Asia however depends to a large extent on the recovery of its business partners and the stimuli of the Chinese government. This is where the economic downfall due to corona might be different from the Asian Financial Crisis (1998) and the Global Financial Crisis (2008), when the steep growth of the Chinese economy and massive investments kept many Asian economies in the black and shielded business from collapsing.
Growth predictions and the development post-corona of local economies dictate the success rate of international companies investing in Asia. Global businesses either produce in Asia to sell elsewhere or they are successful in B2B offerings on the Asian continent. As the Asian middle class is growing, B2C just started to become worthwhile. Short-term to mid-term, these three business models have become precarious.
Asian Fleets 2019 versus 2020
The impact of Covid on corporate strategies can be generically summarized as enhancing operational efficiency (reducing operational costs to increase margins), overall savings initiatives and/or digitization efforts. The tier one target regions are consequently those with the highest overhead cost and lowest digital footprint.
Whereas Global Fleet Managers in 2019 started to demonstrate interest in APAC, as a logical consequence of corporate focus on emerging markets, current developments announce a shift of focus to EU, US and Latin America. Testimonials from Asian procurement and HR confirm that fleet projects have been paused until further notice or have been repositioned as purely local actions.
Digitisation and new business processes are impacting fleet sizes (downwards) across all continents, including Asia. Nevertheless, this trend needs to be nuanced in APAC, where 2-wheel and 3-wheel form factors are still being deployed. An alternative conclusion therefore could be that the transition from motorcycle to car has slowed down or will slow down in 2020.
In most Asian countries, leasing is not the default sourcing methodology; outright purchase or asset/finance leasing are popular, essentially because leasing is (perceived as being) expensive, tax benefits are non-existing and finally, because employee buy-back schemes are still very popular. In addition to asset acquisition models (purchase or lease), many variations of cash allowance and expense reimbursement are in place.
The participants in the Global Fleet Survey prefer full service leasing for most of the continents, except in North American, where fleets are equally split between full service leasing and finance leasing. To achieve this aspiration however, Asian fleet managers need to integrate more vendors than their peers in other regions (Asia: 6.7 – Europe: 6.1 – North America: 1.5).
Because of the limited maturity of the lease market – and consequently of the fleet manager - Asian leased fleets are the least likely to be unbundled. Even fuel is unbundled from the leasing contract in only 43% of Asian Fleets.
Unsurprisingly, when asked how much they were required to save in each region, the global fleet managers ranked Asia lowest of all continents (5.7% savings objective), much lower than Europe (7.7%), North America (9.3%) or Latin America (10%).
OEMs and vehicle selection
Depending on the fleet size, Asian fleet managers will engage with 5 to 7 OEMs to cover the region. Toyota is the most prominent brand across the continent, but local preferences as well as consistently high import taxes motivate fleet owners to integrate local brands, such as Hyundai and Kia for South-Korea, or Maruti-Suzuki, Tata and Mahindra for India.
Asia is essentially a petrol continent and fleet managers don’t anticipate major changes in fuel types. The region scores moderately low when it comes to electrification; this confirms that corporate fleets are not investing in sustainability as long as emission-based taxation or governmental guidelines don’t incentivize them.
Most of the Asian fleets have no or unambitious CO2 objectives. This is linked to the lack of legislation, of course, but also to the fact that most of the Asian fleet vehicles are tool-of-trade cars, very often still pick-up trucks with higher emission ratings than passenger cars.
Slightly alarming is the survey respondents’ limited intention to integrate mobility solutions for their Asian colleagues. Some of the mobility modes (micro-mobility) scores even lower in penetration than in the 2019 survey. The use of the word “alarming” is justified, because it demonstrates that corporate trends are not reflecting societal and consumer trends: Asians embrace mobility and have excellent suppliers that deliver a range of integrated solutions (car, bike, motorcycle, pooling) and services (wallet, delivery, bill payments).
Finally, the deployment of telematics solutions is lowest in Asia (28%), even if Asia has fewer private data protection regulations in place than Europe (41%) or North-America (34%). At the same time, global fleet managers say that driver safety and data quality, typical benefits from telematics and connectivity, are amongst their biggest concerns for the APAC region.
Global fleet owners have demonstrated more interest in Asia in 2019 than in previous years. The complexity of the region however and the inevitable challenge of implementing Western models in APAC, will most probably steer and modify strategies as time passes. Mobility and connectivity/telematics are examples of excellent solutions for Asia, even more so than in Europe or North America, and will gradually become part of the Global Fleet Manager’s agenda.
In addition, successful Asian implementations require a level of localization that is not yet apparent in the responses of the survey. The variety of culture, languages and local requirements cannot be overcome by regional or global structures, but by sub-regional structures or, for the bigger countries, local structures instead.
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