Interviews
18 Jan 22

“Few believed in Europe-wide deals – but LeasePlan did”

Michel Moonens was on the cover of the very first Fleet Europe magazine. That was back in 1997, when he was the European fleet manager at Digital Equipment Corp and he had just signed his first Europe-wide fleet deal – with LeasePlan. Those were truly pioneering days: for Michel, for Fleet Europe and for LeasePlan.

“I believe it was in late 1995 that the Indirect Procurement division of Digital Equipment Corp posted a vacancy for the role of European Fleet Manager. With my background in international financing, my experience as Finance Manager at leasing company DEC, and my interest in automotive, I convinced Mario Vanderbilt, the company’s Director of Indirect Procurement, to offer me the job.”

What was your mission as a European Fleet Manager?

“I had two objectives. First, to develop a strategy that would allow us to optimise cost and reduce the number of our suppliers, primarily the leasing companies and car manufacturers we worked with. So we had a good look at the existing contracts, both at country level and per business unit – always keeping Total Cost of Ownership in mind. This resulted in the creation of Europe-wide contracts with suppliers. For those to succeed, it was crucial for us to cooperate on the implementation with local finance and procurement stakeholders.”

“The second objective was to create a European standard for car eligibility and vehicle type. We achieved this in close collaboration with HR.”

How big was your European fleet?

“We managed 2,000 vehicles across 22 countries in Europe, including the UK.”

Why did you partner with LeasePlan? And how easy was the implementation process?

“I already knew LeasePlan. In the early 1990s, they didn’t just do car leasing: they also refinanced lease contracts for personal computers and other types of office equipment. That’s how I got to know the company, and more specifically its CEO, Hugo Levecke. He was one of the initiators of LeasePlan’s international expansion. And when I got the job at Digital Equipment Comp – my first European role – I had some good talks with him. He was kind enough to explain to me the details and dynamics of the European car leasing market.”

“In 1996, we ran a leasing and OEM tender for Digital Equipment Comp. The purpose was to have just one international leasing supplier, and a couple of car manufacturers of which one would be mandatory in each country. The procurement board eventually selected LeasePlan as leasing supplier. Now, I remember vividly that at that time not everyone – and certainly not all lease companies – believed a Europe-wide lease deal could work. But Hugo Levecke did, and LeasePlan did.”

“Getting all countries and stakeholders on board with the new strategy was not easy, because they didn’t report directly to me. So we had to do a lot of convincing. However, with the support of Caroline Mahieu, LeasePlan’s dedicated account manager, we succeeded. Together, we visited each country to roll out the new programme, in close collaboration with the local LeasePlan organisation.”

What’s your take on LeasePlan’s recent acquisition by ALD?

“I don’t think it’s up to me to comment anymore. In 1999, Compaq acquired Digital Equipment Corp. Their vision on fleet was to decentralise everything, which meant the end of my role. After Digital Equipment Corp, I continued as European fleet manager at Johnson & Johnson, Johnson Controls and Rentokil Initial, but in 2013 I left the fleet business.”

In your opinion, what should ‘NewALD’ inherit from the old LeasePlan?

“That’s a difficult question, as I’m not that familiar with the business culture at ALD. However, my contacts with ALD were always very nice and positive. I’d say that one thing is very important in any organisation, and that’s to have top management visibly engaged with the actual business itself.”

And finally, Michel: since you’re out of the fleet business, may we ask what you’re doing these days?

“What most people aged 67 do: a bit less (laughs). We’ve moved to the Belgian seaside, St Idesbald to be precise. We divide our time between going on holiday and welcoming tourists and guests in our seaside holiday home. Whenever you’re in the neighbourhood: you’re always welcome!”

Authors: Frank Jacobs and Steven Schoefs, Fleet Europe
Picture: LinkedIn. 

Authored by: Steven Schoefs
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