17 mai 21

How to align your global fleet strategy in North America

The experts at the Global Fleet Conference agreed: North America boasts a mature fleet market with a strong appetite for telematics and connected car technologies but there are a few challenges when it comes to preparing your global fleet policy in the region. What are they and how can we overcome them?

Go to the Global Fleet Conference website to watch the Global Fleet Live Sessions and Regional Streams on North America on-demand

Supported by expert opinions from last week’s Global Fleet Conference, below is a snapshot of the fleet profile in the United States and Canada, followed by a few tips about aligning your global fleet strategy in the region.

North America, Leasing

In 2019, just before the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, commercial vehicle sales in the US represented a US$12.8bn market and Canada was about 10% of this. 

The main vehicle leasing and fleet management players in the region are Element Fleet Management, LeasePlan, ARI, Wheels, and Enterprise Fleet Management, although several other suppliers are available. 

Financing, maintenance, collision management, driver safety, and vehicle registration services are used in leasing contracts but keep in mind that the model of choice is open-end. Services are normally charged as you go and the risk of residual value lies with lessees so procurement teams plan your vehicle acquisitions with due diligence.

Although depreciation risk is put on lessees, terms are more flexible as more options are available at the end of contracts. In general, leasing and fleet management is on the rise. 

“The fleet management solution market has been robust lately, and its value is expected to increase by approximately three-fold by 2026,” North America Fleet Management Association NAFA Vice President David Hayward (pictured right) said during the Conference. 

However, according to Vinzens Pflanz (pictured top) who is President of Corporate Sales for mobility services company SIXT, personal vehicle usage could shrink. “I feel that it will be replaced by other mobility services which are more related to sharing, renting, and ride services,” added Mr. Flanz in a panel discussion (pictured top).

As for the vehicle brands of choice, among the main ones are Ford, Toyota, Honda, Chevrolet, Nissan, Hyundai, BMW, and many others.


Regarding electrification, North America is behind China and Europe but several new electric vehicle (EV) models are being introduced and most OEMs are claiming to be predominately electrified from 2030-2035. This also includes models from newer names such as Polestar, Rivian, Lordstown, Workhorse, Elms, as well as Tesla. Electrified trucks and vans are among the newest growing trends of today.

Multinational companies are also being pressured to be more sustainable nowadays, so this reflects on the possible implementation of EVs. 

“One of the key drivers to keep in mind when developing our fleet policy is sustainability or to say reducing CO2 emissions. The others are safety (GPS monitoring) and mobility (flexible solutions). We are piloting EVs now but its more of a future plan,” said Rachel Johnson (pictured left) who is Fleet Specialist in the Americas for Konecranes lifting equipment company.

Ms. Johnson manages 1,100 vehicles in the US and 160 in Canada, summing up to approximately a third of the company’s global fleet. Konecrane uses an open-end lease offered by a single company which supplies light duty tool trucks with upfitting as well as SUVs. 

In the United States, fleet represents 18% of the EV market or approximately 2.87mn vehicles per year. Of this, 1.81mn are commercial, 860,000 rental, and 200,000 government. The push for electrification is mainly seen in California, followed by New York. 

As for recharging infrastucture, it exists in large cities but lacks along highways and in rural areas. The federal government’s infrastructure plan announced by President Biden earlier this year looks like it will significantly help expansion, though. 

“What is really hindering EV adoption today is education. Once you are educated about EVs, other concerns such as lack of recharging infrastructure, range anxiety and the higher price tag on vehicles are more of excuses,” said electric vehicle manufacturer Polestar Head of Fleet Denis Craig.(pictured right)


Although electrification is still advancing slowly in some states, the usage of telematics is proliferating throughout the country. Nearly every fleet vehicle is pretty much telematics equipped as it is important to maximize cost savings, safety, and productivity. Data is key to fleet managers today.

It started with larger fleets but has now trickled down to smaller ones. Remember that you need to know exactly why you are using telematics though. Set milestones and know your ROI.

“For us, EV implementation is very gradual for now, but connectivity and telematics is in the rollout stage for sure. We are using this to help shrink our fleet idle time and this means possible downsizing,”said Kimberly Fisher (pictured top) who is Fleet and Travel Global Manager for oil and energy company National Oilwell Varco (NOV). Ms. Fisher manages approximately 6,000 units globally, of which some 5,000 are in North America.


Meanwhile, in the US, keep in mind that legislation can come down hard on your company so be well informed. For one, the US Department of Trasportation (DOT) regulates vehicles above 10,000 pounds. Besides defining the operation and maintenance scope of vehicles, it regulates drivers in terms of experience, training and drug and alcohol policy.

Remember that employers are liable for the driving performance of employees. Therefore, choose your drivers carefully, provide them with training, and then monitor them to assure compliance. Reward or correct certain driver behavior and make sure this is done across the board. You don’t want to get hit with any DOT fines as they can get very high.

Finally, in more recent news, keep in mind that the region is facing supply chain issues stemming from factory closed downs influenced by the Coronavirus and the ongoing global semiconductor shortage. This has resulted in strong resale values and a robust used vehicle market.

“Residual value risk is low now as the used car market is at a historic high,” said NAFA Senior VP Mike Camnetar (pictured left) at the event, adding however that this impacts 2022 model deliveries which could take five or six months to arrive.

Amidst the pandemic fallout, the need for more flexible leasing solutions which offer different models and shorter time periods has also sprouted.

Aligning Global Strategy with North America

Remember that one size does not fit all, and that regional leasing agreements are more common. Closed end leases with all services included and fix monthly payments usually work on a global level but they are more costly. First understand the differences between markets and then customize your policy appropriately. 

Do research and know the services offered by suppliers. Continue to speak with potential venders as well as your current supplier so that you always have a full-rounded picture. Current vendors sometimes end up defaulting to your own requests. And once you find the right partner, set benchmarks, schedule annual reviews, and set cost reduction targets.

“Keep in mind that a North American fleet vehicle may drive longer distances that what you are used to in other countries, not to mention the different vehicle body types and driver profiles you may find in the region,” said Jorge Fernandez (pictured right) who is Global Category Manager for Car Fleet at biotechnology company Roche.

Mr. Fernandez manages approximately 14,000 passenger cars globally, being 3,000 in North America which is confirmed that they fall under the open-ended leasing model. 

“First of all, find the right OEM partner as those abroad may not be applicable in the US, meaning warranties, maintenance, reliability, and residual value aspects,” said Ralf Wessel (pictured left) who is Global Facilities, Fleet and Security Senior Manager for machinery company AGCO.

Mr. Wessel manages 2,300 vehicles globally of which 650 are in North America, being a mixed of leased and owned.

As a final note, although the United States and Canada are very similar, some of the speakers noted the need to recognize Canada as a country on its own. “Remember that Canada is not the United States. Besides having smaller fleets (35-70 vehicles), there are other particularities which must be recognized,” said vehicle fleet management company Donlen CEO Tom Callahan (pictured top).

Go to the Global Fleet Conference website to watch the Global Fleet Live Sessions and Regional Streams on North America on-demand

Top Photo: Panel discussion on how to boost fleet management efficiency in North America, moderated by Global Fleet Chief Editor and Conference Host Steven Schoefs (source: Global Fleet)

Authored by: Daniel Bland