Interviews
12 Apr 17

Didier Fenix, Europcar: Mobility service integration through digitisation

Europcar intends to be global leader in mobility solutions, not just a car rental company. It has recently opened its first dedicated outlet in Brussels, and established a ‘Mobility’ business unit. Didier Fenix, head of Europcar for France and Belgium, talks to us about this trend and its impact on his company.

 

You have just opened the ‘mobility station’ in the EU district of Brussels. How do you expect to make money in this crowded marketplace?

Didier Fenix: I think we will be profitable if we can demonstrate our capabilities, integrate all the solutions of mobility on one platform, because we will be enlarging our client base. This will involve as much the person who wants to take part in car-sharing, as someone who finds us here via the free-floating electric scooter offering, or others who are here for traditional car rental. The average profile of our current users of short term car rental is around 40-45 years old, and the new mobility will both make our client base younger and enlarge it, because these people will add to those we know already, our legacy clients. These young people will become our legacy users themselves. And as I often say, it is not the fact that we can replace car rental by one or another form of mobility, but the fact that we can integrate all the forms of mobility together, and with digital platforms. We will create confidence through the fact that the client will always be able to find a mobility solution, rapidly and with easy access, close to where he is. It is the development of digitalization which will give us this capacity.

You have been making acquisitions, are investing in car-sharing with Ubeeqo, with Bluemove in Spain, and only recently with GuidaMi in Milan. Are other acquisitions in the pipeline?
Didier Fenix: What is in the public domain is that we have strong growth ambitions, and as our CEO Caroline Parot has pointed out, we closed 2016 with revenues of 2.15 billion Euros, which we are expecting to grow to 3 billion by 2020. This growth of almost 50% in under 4 years cannot, it is quite clear, be achieved by organic growth only.

You have your ‘ideas factory’ the Europcar lab. Do you work with start-ups?
Didier Fenix:
Yes of course, the mission of the Europcar Lab is to explore new products, new offerings of innovative mobility and when these concepts are developed, we look to see whether we are able to develop them ourselves, or whether it would be more efficient to acquire the technology by acquiring the start-up. We look at all of this.

Are you in competition with leasing companies and even OEM’s in the mobility domain?
Didier Fenix: It seems quite evident that the whole of the automobile domain is under pressure and is in the process of transforming. It is not just a theory to say that in the major urban centres we are going to move away from car ownership to car usage, it is a fact and it is going to impact on all players within the chain, including the manufacturers which are making their vehicles connected, and looking to enter our business model too. They know very well that in the future they will not sell cars in the same way that they do today.

Have you thought about offering your services directly to employees, in the way that some of the leasing companies do, the so-called B2E?
Didier Fenix:
We haven’t yet explored this concept but that doesn’t mean that we won’t do in the future.

A slightly different question: we have learned that in Belgium, for example, more petrol cars than diesels have been sold this year. Are you reflecting this trend in your fleet?
Didier Fenix:
We are seeing this trend in most European countries, and exactly the same is being experienced in our fleets. Our acquisition mode is essentially a buy-back system which means that the manufacturers have to take the vehicles back from us and then sell them again. Everything which comes into our fleet as entry level, compact and economic is increasingly becoming petrol. As the manufacturers can see this trend, they are therefore giving us more and more petrol-engine cars.

Another trend: banning or restricting cars from city centres – Paris, London… – does this impact on you too?
Didier Fenix:
In the first instance, the manner in which the authorities are going about this impacts us in a positive way, because we have a young fleet, precisely because of this buy-back system. Before, when we didn’t have the system of ‘eco-disks’ now being brought in by the Paris authorities, for example, when there were pollution peaks we simply had half of our fleet (under the even-odd number-plate system) off the road. We argued in vain that we had a young fleet with low CO2 emissions – they didn’t listen to us. The eco-disk system, even if it wasn’t exactly what we were lobbying for, has the advantage for us of enabling our entire fleet to be used during pollution peaks. But I don’t doubt that sooner or later this system will enable the authorities to restrict urban entry even more.

Authored by: Tim Harrup