In our Client Spotlight series, we’re shining a light on some of the excellent work our clients do.
From labradoodle breeders on the shores of Loch Lomond to high tech security startups, we’ll take you inside some of Scotland’s most exciting businesses.
For our first instalment, we’re featuring the UK’s leading fleet management provider and all-round automotive icon, Fleet Alliance.
Earlier this week, I sat down with Fleet Alliance’s marketing manager, Kevin Blackmore, to talk hybrids, history and what Fleet Alliance has got planned for the future.
Who are you and what’s your role at Fleet Alliance?
I’m Kevin Blackmore and I’m responsible for all our marketing at Fleet Alliance.
Can you tell us about what Fleet Alliance does?
Our founding directors set up a leasing company in the mid-90s. Whilst very successful, the majority of the client base was Scottish.
In 2002, we introduced an innovative partner programme called Fleet Alliance as a way to expand our services throughout the UK. It was unique for its time and captured a lot of industry mindshare.
It quickly became our predominant business channel so it made sense to combine all operations under the more well-known Fleet Alliance brand. The rest is history!
Fleet has won multiple awards for being one of the best places to work. Can you tell us just a few of the best perks you get working at fleet?
Wow! Where to begin? We have so many that we actually need a booklet to list them all!
Fully-expensed parking in Glasgow city centre, a great pension scheme, private healthcare, generous leave allowance, restaurant and high street discount cards, free tickets to gigs at the Glasgow Hydro and fully-expensed social nights out and summer weekenders.
And that’s not all the benefits — we’re very lucky people!
What are Fleet’s top 3 achievements to date?
First, the fact the we’re now Fleet Alliance Group as a result of our first major acquisition which sees our managed fleet increase to over 25,000 vehicles.
Second, our cloud-based fleet management technology e-Fleet and its award-winning smartphone app e-Fleet Mobile. That’s been huge for us. Technology is a big differentiator in our sector and our clients love it.
Third, being named one of the UK’s Best Places to Work five years running is an achievement we’re particularly proud of as it tells us that we’re looking after our people properly.
Electric cars, hybrid and eco cars seem to get lots of press but what do you really think of the electric revolution?
Electric cars will without a doubt replace traditional vehicles, although predicting a timeframe is difficult.
The Government is driving change through taxation and manufacturers are looking to keep their respective products competitive by aggressively reducing the CO2 output of their vehicles as a way to make them as tax efficient as possible.
This is helping drive the adoption of fully electric and ultra-low emitting vehicles as companies look to reduce their carbon footprint whilst offering more tax-efficient options to their drivers.
We’ve been an active proponent of this shift with our eco-Fleet programme. Over the last few years, we’ve reduced our clients’ overall fleet CO2 output by over 17 billion grammes, which is the equivalent of taking over 4,000 vehicles off the road!
As experts in the car industry, how do you think automation and self-driving cars will affect the car fleet industry?
I think automation will gradually work its way in through city centre use first, especially in cities with aggressive air pollution targets like London.
I can see driverless cars taking off as low-emitting electric vehicles which operate in concert to reduce congestion as a logical first step.
Fully autonomous cars for all road use are still some way off but when it does come, productivity will be the big benefactor as the car effectively becomes a mini-office allowing a salesperson to be as productive in their car as they are at their desk.
How do you see Brexit affecting the car fleet/leasing industry?
That’s very hard to say. Some manufacturers have made small price increases in the UK due to the falling value of the pound. However, the effect on our market has been negligible as evidenced by the continuing growth of fleet sales.
There are still plenty of attractive fleet deals around but as the pound struggles against the euro (coupled with the growing attractiveness of other European markets) it remains to be seen whether this continues to be the case should manufacturers decide to deflect supply to other markets.
That said, we remain optimistic about our outlook for 2017. Any further beyond that would be pure speculation at this stage.
What excites you about the automotive industry right now?
Alternative fuel vehicles! Electric, hybrid and hydrogen! Manufacturers are on fire right now when it comes to efficiency!
Anything that reduces tax and fuel costs for both companies and drivers, whilst simultaneously making cars kinder to the environment, is worth getting excited about.
Tesla has really helped make people excited about electric vehicles and have shaken off the preconception that they’re slow and boring. As has BMW with their stunning i8!
Just about every major manufacturer is making great strides towards a cleaner and more efficient future.
What is your number one goal for Fleet Alliance in 2017?
We have a long-term plan based around ethical growth. We want to further increase our managed fleet whilst continuing to reduce our clients’ fleet CO2 footprint.
This ethical growth is more than just business. Using our success to drive meaningful change is something we’re very big on. We’ve raised over £300,000 for our various charities to-date and we’ve set ourselves the ambitious goal of reaching £400,000 this year.
What do you think sets Fleet Alliance apart from its competitors?
Our award-winning combination of people and technology. We have an engaged and knowledgeable team backed up by a powerful array of fleet technology.
It doesn’t matter if a company operates a fleet of 500 vehicles or just five, all our clients benefit from our buying power, outstanding levels of service and are able to utilise our fleet technology to reduce costs whilst improving the efficiency of their fleet.
If a company came to you with a £25,000 per car budget, what would you recommend them?
Suggesting a specific vehicle is difficult as that’s really a customer preference, but ultimately I’d recommend they hold on to their capital and lease something on Contract Hire. A fixed monthly rental could net them a vehicle from a premium manufacturer and cover all running costs such as road tax, servicing, maintenance and repair, as well as replacement tyres. Best of all they don’t have to worry about depreciation or the hassle of selling the car at the end of the contact. It’s a no risk, tax efficient and admin-friendly way to provide a vehicle to an employee. But then again I would say that, wouldn’t I?
Okay, time for the big one. What’s your favourite (budget-no-issue) car of all time?
The 2006 model Ford GT.
Totally impractical of course… I think I’d give myself a hernia trying to cram myself into it and I’d probably need a second mortgage to pay the fuel but it’s absolutely stunning!
Sadly, Ford has over-designed the second generation model and it just doesn’t work as well. So, when I do win the lottery, I’ll have to buy second-hand!