It was the talk of our latest Fleet Europe event, mid-November in Barcelona: How the European Fleet industry is at a crossroads, and that the road ahead is called Mobility Management – with technology and connectivity broadening the end user base to all corporate employees.
Experts have been predicting that future for some time now. So why it this feel different this time? Because right now, the pieces of the mobility puzzle are falling into place. That vision of the future is turning into reality – now. For a variety of reasons, many of which are relevant only to themselves, all stakeholders now are firmly on board.
However, as we see its outline much clearer now, that puzzle will be more complex to construct, count a lot more pieces of various shape and size, and carry a larger inherent risk of collapse than we foresaw from a greater distance, some years ago.
The Fleet Manager will become a Mobility Architect. The Fleet Manager’s scope was limited to managing the mobility of those employees who were eligible for a company car. The Mobility Architect will have to manage a much wider range of mobility solutions, for a much wider audience. He or she will be responsible for planning, developing and managing the mobility strategy for all company employees, in line with the company's overall strategy and objectives.
It will be their task to pick from that wide range of mobility solutions the ones that are most in tune with employees’ in terms of cost, attractiveness and usefulness. Those needs can change overnight, so Mobility Managers will be tasked with anticipating shifts in behaviour, and continuously scouting for innovative solutions. Romain Trébuil of L’Oréal put it like this: “You could say my team and I are now our company’s external R&D department”.
The success of mobility solutions depends on the variety of local offers, and the quality of the local infrastructure. This implies that the variety of options will be much greater than in the fleet management paradigm. As a consequence, the relationship with regional and local stakeholders will become key.
Also on the corporate side, a greater number of stakeholders will become involved in deciding, approving and promoting the Mobility Strategy for all employees. HR, Finance, Legal, Health and Safety, Facilities and potentially even more departments will all want to have their say.
The engagement with this large array of stakeholders is essential for the success and sustainability of the Mobility Programme, because in the end, it is everyone’s project. This also means that a community of care must be established. Fortunately, formulas like gamification are proving both successful and fun in doing just that.
On the supplier side of the new, mobility-oriented equation, two questions will be key: How do the suppliers position themselves in the mobility arena, and how to they monetise their mobility offering?
Car Manufacturers will have to stop focusing on ’metal-bending’ – i.e. producing vehicles only – and position themselves around four main pillars:
→ In terms of vehicle product, electrification of powertrains will become essential;
→ As for customer care and driver management, the emphasis will be on user-friendliness and secure connectivity;
→ With regard to driver comfort and safety, the crucial element will be autonomous, self-driving technology;
→ And in the mobility arena, with employee behaviour changing towards ease of use, the sharing principle will be of paramount importance.
Above and beyond these four pillars, Car Manufacturers will want to develop mobility services – either by themselves or in partnerships – as a means to stay ahead in the fast-evolving mobility game.
To stay successful, Car Lease and Fleet Management companies will also have to rethink their business models. The only way to do that is to establish an indispensible presence in the wider mobility arena. Simply continuing to fund vehicles and provide assorted services will no longer be enough to sustain their business model in Europe.
As the empowerment of employees and private customers leads to a drastically changed user profile with different needs and wants, so the services offered by Lease and Fleet Management companies must change. They will need to include car-sharing and other shared services, multimodal transport solutions, telematics to monitor vital statistics, and apps and mobility cards to access a variety of options for choosing, reserving and paying for mobility solutions.
As with Car Manufacturers, the big question for Car Lease and Fleet Management companies will be whether to be a generalist, offering a complete scope of mobility solutions, or to become a specialist, focusing on specific areas the better to monetise these.
Fuel, Assistance and Insurance specialists are just some of the other suppliers who will also be impacted strongly by the change to the mobility paradigm. The accelerating electrification of vehicle fleets and the corresponding pressure on combustion-engine vehicles is putting urgent pressure on fuel suppliers to rethink their business model towards electric mobility, in which the ability to offer charging facilities and battery-related services – next to the traditional food and lodging services – is going to be essential.
Assistance and Insurance companies will have to accommodate the shared-mobility space, and the fact that autonomous driving will impact the number and nature of the incidents and accidents. This will of course involve huge changes to their vehicle-related businesses.
With lots of energy and passion, start-ups and (other) disruptors are launching innovations in the mobility, safety, connectivity and payment segments of the automotive industry. The pace of innovations will only accelerate in the years to come. In fact, business agility – a key characteristic for start-ups and disruptors – will become a defining trait of the mobility space in the near future, as traditional business models are transformed or superseded.
Those startups who are best able to add value – and find financial backing for their innovations – will have a serious chance to slice off a significant piece of the mobility cake. But breaking into the business will not be easy: traditional fleet and mobility players may be less agile and shackled to longer-term strategies, but they also have deep pockets, profound knowledge and strategic partnerships with experts and customers.
Perhaps the best option for both disruptors and traditionals is to find appropriate partnerships and build on each other’s strengths. For disruption and innovation are both inevitable and necessary, especially in the fields of technology, connectivity and mobilty...
Let’s be clear: these are exciting times – despite the complexity of the puzzle that is integrated mobility management. In time, we may look back nostalgically on the much-simpler times when Fleet Management was the industry paradigm. But for now, our focus for 2017 is to effect the changes that are coming in the most efficient way possible.
Change can and will be bewildering. But all stakeholders should keep in mind the three guiding principles that will keep your business and our industry successful: flexibility, simplicity, user-friendliness. Whatever your personal role, and the position of your company on the mobility chessboard, those three keywords are vital for your future success. Have fun in 2017!
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