Maaike Hofwijk-van Hemmen: "Why local beats global in fleet electrification"
As Fleet Europe celebrates its 25th anniversary, Maaike Hofwijk – van Hemmen, Fleet Manager Europe & NL for G4S, looks back on her two decades in fleet and shares her thoughts about the changing demands of fleet management.
How has your career in fleet progressed?
I started working for Accenture in 2000 as a facilities manager, and fleet was part of facilities. In 2004-05, I was pregnant and I was managing 800 vehicles as part of my facilities role, so I had to make a decision between facilities or fleet management. I was happy with either because they are both dynamic environments with constant change, which is what I need to perform at my best. Accenture asked me to focus on fleet. After Accenture I worked for KCI [part of M3] in an international fleet management role, and I started at G4S in a similar role eight years ago.
How did you learn the role and skills of fleet management?
There wasn’t a lot of training available in fleet management when I started, so I asked a couple of leasing companies if they could recommend people who were excellent fleet managers, because I wanted to learn from the best. They were all willing to help me.
Later I followed an evening study for Automotive Business Management.
What were the first lessons you learned in fleet?
At Accenture the focus was always on SCR and TCO, which was constantly changing because of Government tax rules for both employer and employee. I also learned there was a lot of room for negotiation with suppliers. And I learned that company cars are such a sensitive topic, especially in countries where employees are taxed very highly for the private use of a car so, of course, they want a say in it as well.
Above all, I understood that as fleet manager you are a ‘spider in the web’, with perhaps the most stakeholders of any job, because you work with every department.
What has changed since you first started in fleet?
Everything and nothing! It all depends on the industry you are in. Fleet management is a lot easier if you have access to data, and Accenture is a data-driven company. Then I moved to a medical device company which was not so data driven, but had the budget to do whatever it wanted to do with fleet. And now I work at the world’s largest safety and security provider, a different industry with different margins and therefore more focus on safety and return on investment.
What are the key differences between managing cars and vans?
LCVs are far more challenging and you need to squeeze far more out of the vehicles. LCVs have a business function, multiple drivers who treat the vehicles differently to company car drivers with their own perk cars, and there are more layers involved, including the driver, the operations manager, the business unit director, and fleet.
Plus, there’s the fitting out of vehicles, with racking, livery and telematics. Ideally, you want a turnkey process with your suppliers, which is something we are setting up in the Netherlands that can hopefully be used as a blueprint by other countries.
You have to remember, too, that workers councils or unions have to be consulted in some countries.
How much more globalised has fleet become in the last 20 years?
It depends. When I joined G4S in 2015 we had over 70 leasing companies and used every vehicle brand available, so I introduced a fleet programme that contained a European brand strategy and leasing strategy, with local country addenda.
We now have two leasing company suppliers, ALD and Arval, and we use a local hero in countries where one of them does not have a presence.
From 2015 to 2018 we had eight manufacturers, and since 2018 we have had a five-brand strategy of BMW and MINI, Renault and Dacia, Ford, Toyota and Lexus, and Stellantis. But if you need electric cars you can pick any brand you want so long as the car is 100% electric. In the Netherlands, for example, we have added Kia, Hyundai, Mercedes, the Volkswagen Group and Volvo.
Before you could conclude international agreements with most manufacturers, nowadays these are not International but regional agreements (a logical shift in view of the developments in the field of price and supply/demand).
How is decarbonisation changing fleet management?
When it comes to electrification, the local approach beats the global approach.
The Netherlands is the absolute forerunner in the field of electrification and alternative mobility solutions, followed by Austria and Belgium. But G4S has the strongest presence in Eastern and Southern Europe, where countries are less advanced in transition to electrification. Decarbonisation in these countries requires investment or Government support and incentives, without those it’s very complicated and very expensive. Additionally, other challenges to electrification could be the lack of infrastructure, such as in Greece or the Baltics.
In the Netherlands, we adopted our first EVs in operations six years ago and added EVs to our car grid in 2018. We recently got ‘white smoke’ from the workers council to have an EV-only policy for both our perk and work cars. But for operational vehicles, it’s more complex.
In the Netherlands alone we have more than 30 G4S branches, all of them rented and each with its own landlord, some of whom are happy to put chargers in front of the building. Still, there are those that are not, so we rely on the cooperation of proprietors.
Today, 15% of our Dutch operational fleet is electric, next year it will be 35 to 40%, but after that it will be more challenging because we have to replace operational vehicles that do 50,000km or more per year. Decarbonisation will remain a country or regional matter until we are all have similar or the same needs again. As soon as that happens, fleet management will go back to a more centralised approach.
Where do you see the future of vehicle powertrains?
There is so much going on with vehicle development, and not just for EVs. I read a scientific paper by a University in Australia that has found a solution for existing diesel engines to become zero emissions. And then there’s hydrogen. What direction are we going? That is the most interesting question and why I am so looking forward to the Fleet Europe Summit; which is always an opportunity to learn from peers (my most important reason for attending) and a chance to meet all my suppliers in one day.
I keep a constant eye on legislation, on what the European Union and national governments are saying. Are they really going to write off ICE vehicles in 2035? The majority of OEMs will still be producing ICE vehicles for other markets beyond 2035, so fleets need more support to make electrification happen.
How do you see the future of fleet management evolving?
Ten years ago this was an easy question to answer – a slow development towards decarbonisation. But now it’s difficult to predict the future.
In 25 years, everything will have changed. The developments snowballing, gathering pace, going faster and growing. We will have autonomous driving at one point so do we still need a car or could a subscription for perk cars suffice? The technology is available today, but we have to overcome hurdles, such as insurance and liability when it comes to autonomous driving. We need to work out how we, as humans, are going to interact with technology.
For operational vehicles, more tasks will be done remotely – will businesses still need someone in a vehicle to come and open and close a building?
As for fleet management, the fleet manager’s role will be all around data management; everything will be software and data-driven.