APAC 2021: Momentum & Inclusion
Even if the APAC challenge is far from being resolved, the region has finally become more visible and has managed to grab the attention of international fleet owners. Its complexity is still there, and so are the many cultural and other differences between the countries in the region, but the fundamental obstacle is removed as corporate fleet customers and the supply chain are positively engaging with each other.
By Yves Helven, Expert, Global Fleet
Economics drive interest, and this is the rationale for APAC’s newly won seat at the fleet table. At the start of the global pandemic, the Asian countries managed to react swiftly and efficiently, not only because of effective governance, but also due to their experience with previous pandemics and a strong sense of community. In most APAC countries, the combination of measures of isolation and the speed of their implementation has saved not only many lives, but also a big piece of the local gross domestic products.
Isolation however is not sustainable and the economically motivated reopening of borders by the end of 2020 was a risk. By mid-2021, it became clear that the lack of an effective vaccination strategy would become an issue. As the delta variant hit the region, economies started shrinking again. This has led to downgrade Asia’s growth projections from a 7.6% forecast to a 6.5% adjusted forecast.
Nonetheless, these percentages exceed the performances of Europe or the US and confirm Asia’s pole position in economic growth.
APAC Fleets and Policies
Even if correct figures of company car registrations are not available across APAC, and the conclusions in this article are based on snapshots and partial data sets, fleet sizes have not changed dramatically, which is confirmed by different elements:
- The industries that have the biggest need for company cars, are growing and need mobility for their sales staff.
- The trend of sales digitization, that is leading to, especially, EU fleets to shrink, has not yet fully kicked off in APAC. In other words, e.g., pharma reps still take the car to visit doctors or hospitals at a much higher frequency than their EU or US colleagues
Nonetheless, as APAC is gradually being introduced into global policies, employee eligibility is no longer being determined locally, but needs to follow set rules. A direct effect is that fleet size increases are not proportionate to the performance of companies.
The issues at hand in previous years are still the same today: contracts without mileage, difficulties to contract regionally rather than locally or to negotiate volume agreements, lack of contract flexibility, reporting and data collection… Nonetheless, some regional vendors are making efforts to cater – be it via workarounds – for international customers and have in place a start of a regional structure. Nissan and Orix are good examples of companies having invested in regionalization.
APAC is a major challenge when it comes to sustainability. Not only because of the lack of EVs and charging infrastructure, but also because of the region’s major energy source: coal. This implies that, from a GHG Accounting point of view, an Asian EV underperforms compared to many EU ICE vehicles.
This leads to the conclusion that, in short term, mild hybrid vehicles are good alternatives in the region, especially as more common company cars, such as the Toyota Altis, are now available in HEV versions.
APAC suffers from an infrastructure gap, which means that the need for infrastructure exceeds its availability. This leads to traffic jams and pollution, in addition to slowing down the region’s economy. Mobility alternatives however are present – and they are excellent. Companies such as Grab, Gojek, Suica, DiDi and Ola have developed a comprehensive set of solutions that are useful for consumers and corporates alike.
Mobility is however not often retained in corporate policies, nor realistically considered as an alternative to the company car, as most global fleet managers have not – in real life – experienced it in APAC.
In short: 2022 will deliver more of the same for APAC. More companies will focus on the region, the supply chain will become a bit more mature again, more electrified vehicles will become available, more global policies will be implemented.
It is unrealistic to expect any revolutionary change, but things are moving in the right direction and there’s no reason to expect a change in course. With the right collaboration between customer and supply chain, fleet management APAC will shortly achieve maturity, but will continue to do things the Asian way. And that’s good.