14 Nov 22

25 years of fleet and mobility milestones

In the 25 years since Fleet Europe was launched, the industry landscape has changed dramatically. Here’s an overview of some of the most important milestones since 1997, in terms of foundations and regulations, mergers and acquisitions. 

1997: Launch of Fleet Europe

It seems like yesterday, but also like a lifetime ago: it’s been 25 years since we launched Fleet Europe. We aimed to do what had not been done before – to cater to the informational needs of multinational fleets in Europe. To underline that point, our first magazine, published in December, came out in no less than six languages. 

1997: Dataforce founded

Back in 1997, we weren’t the only ones thinking that better information would lead to a more efficient European fleet industry. Founded in the same year as Fleet Europe, Dataforce from the beginning had as its mission to bring transparency to the vehicle fleet market, by gathering and analyzing data about those vehicles. 

2000: Element and Arval launch alliance

PHH (since renamed Element Fleet Management) in North America and Arval in Europe sign an agreement to strike up a global alliance. The agreement, an expansion of a partnership initiated five years earlier, lays the foundation for the first major global alliance of its kind, today still going strong as the Element-Arval Global Alliance.

2000: GPS goes ‘civilian’

U.S. president Bill Clinton allows the civilian use of military-grade precision of GPS signals. As a result, the accuracy of civilian GPS signals increases from 100 yards (91.4 m) to 10 yards (9.1 m). This is the start of a boom in telematics applications (pictured), including for corporate fleets. It is no coincidence that Geotab, a global leader in fleet telematics, was founded in 2000. 

2001: Société Générale gets into the fleet industry

Having established that the fleet industry is going through a period of concentration and consolidation, French financial group Société Générale decides to capitalize on that development by acquiring ALD, until then the fleet management subsidiary of Deutsche Bank. ALD will be merged with SocGen’s own fleet subsidiary, Temsys. The merged company will be known as ALD Automotive (although commonly still referred to as just ALD).

2004: ABN AMRO sells LeasePlan

Dutch financial group ABN AMRO sells its vehicle leasing subsidiary LeasePlan for €2 billion. The buyer is a consortium led by Volkswagen (50%), and including shareholders from Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates (25% each). 

2007: Daimler launches car2go

Mercedes-Benz Mobility, a division of Daimler, launches car-sharing concept car2go. It’s a sign that major players in the automotive industry – including OEMs themselves – are starting to take the move towards mobility solutions seriously.

2008: Sixt goes digital

Sixt launches digital booking over the phone. The application allows customers to pick up vehicles simply using bar codes, which speeds up the process. In so doing, Sixt is one of the first car rental companies (and fleet suppliers) to offer its clientele the advantages of digitalisation. 

2009: PSA creates DS

PSA Group creates a luxury vehicle marque called DS (déesse is French for ‘goddess’). Initially part of the Citroën brand, is becomes a completely independent brand within PSA from 2012. 

2011: Nissan LEAF is European Car of the Year

Unveiled in 2010 and on sale across Europe the next year, the Nissan LEAF was the world’s first mass-market all-electric vehicle. Marking an important shift in market perception, the LEAF won the 2011 European Car of the Year Award – the first ever zero-emission car to do so. 

2011: birth of the CASE concept

Following the financial crisis of 2008, cost-saving measures are top of mind for corporates, and their fleets. One of the consequences is the birth of CASE, a concept for developing synergies between Connected, Autonomous, Shared and Electric driving. It’s the start of the ‘smart mobility’ of the future.

2011: Sixt and BMW start DriveNow

Sixt and BMW Group join forces and start DriveNow, a premium carsharing platform. BMW acquired Sixt’s shares in 2018, and merged DriveNow with Daimler’s Car2go the next year, under the name Share Now. This year, it was acquired by Stellantis, and now forms part of its Free2Move division (which was started in 2016 as PSA’s mobility brand).

2012: EU’s first CO2 emissions standard

The European Union’s first fleet-wide emissions standard (of 130 g CO2/km for new passenger cars) is introduced. The standard gets stricter over time. From 2020, it is 95 g CO2/km for cars and 147 g CO2/km for LCVs. Both will be reduced by 15% in 2024, 50% in 2030 and 100% in 2035. From then, all new cars and LCVs in the EU must be zero-emission. 

2015: Dieselgate erupts

Manufacturer Volkswagen is accused of marketing diesel vehicles with software that is able to detect when they’re being tested, skewering the vehicle’s performance to deliver more positive emissions results. The so-called ‘Dieselgate’ scandal will have a profound impact, on the future of vehicle testing, and on the commitment by VW (and other OEMs) to diesel (declining) and alternatives, mainly electric vehicles (increasing).

2015: Arval acquires GE’s European business

U.S. conglomerate GE takes a step back from the fleet industry. Arval acquires GE Capital Fleet Services, GE’s fleet management activity in Europe. As a result, Arval becomes the largest multibrand leasing company in Europe, with a total of 860,000 vehicles under management.

2015: IFRS 16 agreed

In December, the world’s two accounting standards bodies, IASB and FASB, agreed on new rules for lease accounting, called IFRS 16. The changes include the capitalisation of almost all operating leases that are off-balance sheet at present. This can have far-reaching implications for vehicle leasing. The rules will take effect in three years’ time for large companies, smaller ones have longer to adapt.

2016: Daimler acquires Athlon

Daimler Financial Services buys Athlon, the Netherlands-based but Europe-wide leasing company, from De Lage Landen (DLL), a Dutch finance company, for €1.1 billion. Athlon retains its separate identity, hits 400,000 vehicles under management in 2019 and in 2022 becomes part of Mercedes-Benz Mobility AG. 

2017: ALD launches IPO

In June, ALD Automotive launched its Initial Public Offering (IPO). It was the first major European leasing company to do so. The IPO, on Euronext in Paris, garnered about €1.16 billion, for just over 20% of the total stock, meaning the entire company was market-valued at €5.78 billion.

2017: NEDC becomes WLTP

From September, the old NEDC (New European Driving Cycle) lab tests for new cars were replaced by the new WLTP (Worldwide Harmonised Light Vehicle Test Procedure) tests, which are more representative of real-world driving. Among other changes, WLTP yields higher official CO2 figures than NEDC. This has a major impact on OEM strategies, but also on fleet management, due to its impact on company car taxation and, as a result, company car policies. 

2017: PSA acquires Opel/Vauxhall

U.S.-based manufacturer General Motors ceases its activities in Europe. As a result, the French PSA Group acquires GM’s European sister brands Opel and Vauxhall. 

2018: LeasePlan launches CarNext

LeasePlan launches CarNext, with the ambition to become a European leader in the sale of used vehicles via B2B and B2C channels, both online and in bricks-and-mortar retail points, and including but not limited to LeasePlan’s own ex-lease vehicles. In 2020, it sold 40,000 cars B2C and 200,000 cars B2B. In 2021, CarNext becomes a fully independent business. 

2019: Amazon orders 100,000 EVs

In September, Amazon orders 100,000 all-electric LCVs from Rivian. It’s the largest single order yet for EVs, and it will create the world’s largest EV fleet. The order sends a strong signal to the market that large-scale electrification, even of LCVs, presents a viable path forward for large multinational flets. The order will be fully deployed by 2030. 

2021: birth of Stellantis

A 50-50 merger between U.S.-Italian company FCA and France-based FCA Group results in the birth of Stellantis: the world’s fifth-largest automaker (behind Toyota, VW, Hyundai and GM), with no less than 14 automotive brands in its portfolio. From FCA, the Italian brands Abarth, Alfa Romeo, Fiat, Lancia and Maserati; and the American brands Chrysler, Dodge, Jeep and Ram. And from PSA: Citroën, DS, Opel, Peugeot and Vauxhall.

2022 : ALD acquires LeasePlan

In January, ALD (serviced fleet: 1.7 million vehicles) announces it will acquire LeasePlan (1.9 million vehicles), at a cost of €4.9 billion. The merged company – name still to be announced – will become a giant in the fleet and mobility industry. By its sheer size, the merger is in fact predicted to change the nature of the industry itself. 

2022: VW (co-)acquires Europcar

Car rental and business mobility specialist Europcar Mobility Group is sold to Green Mobility Holding, a special purpose company owned by a consortium comprising car manufacturer Volkswagen AG, asset manager Attestor Limited and mobility products and services provider Pon Holdings BV.

Image: Shutterstock

Authored by: Frank Jacobs