Norbert van den Eijnden, joint CEO Alphabet: “We don't want to remain number 4”
“Our merger with ING Car Lease required some time and effort, but we still managed to grow our business at the same time. Now the merger is complete, we're releasing all that extra energy onto the market”, says Norbert van den Eijnden, joint CEO of Alphabet International to Fleet Europe. The company is aiming for long-term growth of up to 7% p.a., confidently above market average.
“2013 was a great year. We've completed our merger in France, the UK and Italy, after finishing the process in our other markets”, says Norbert van den Eijnden. “We started the year with a fleet of 500,000 vehicles, and ended it with 536,000. In 2011, before the merger, both companies had 430,000 cars. Not many competitors can say they've added 100,000 cars over the past three years. And our profit is accordingly healthy”.
How is Alphabet heading into 2014?
N. van den Eijnden: “We've stated before we don't want to remain number four. We're concentrating our investigations on the BRICT emerging markets. And I'm sure we'll expand into other markets or make an acquisition as the opportunity arises. As for market growth, there are positive prognoses for the UK and Poland. And there'll be an end to the negative market development in Spain, Italy and the Netherlands”.
How is Alphabet preparing for the mobility issues of tomorrow?
N. van den Eijnden: “One big trend is the migration into megacities. This is already changing mobility priorities. In my day, I couldn't get my driving licence fast enough. Today's graduates don't mind taking trains or planes – it gives them more time to spend on their mobile device. Sharing has become more important than owning. So the need for cars will become more flexible, both for private individuals and fleet drivers. That's the whole story behind AlphaCity, which is up and running in 8 countries and more to follow.
Electric mobility is still in its infancy. By the end of this year, we'll only have a few thousand EVs. Some think e-mobility will never break through. But we're approaching a tipping point, faster than many realise. In 10 years, a large chunk of our fleet will be electric. That's why we're investing sustainably in AlphaElectric”.
Where are you on blackboxes and other telematics issues?
N. van den Eijnden: “I've been involved in attempts to analyse driver behaviour since 1994. The privacy problem has only increased since then. As far as I can interpret the law, you can't track anything without driver consent, which limits the technology's applicability. On the other hand: cars are getting smarter all the time – as in our parent company BMW's Connected Drive technology. But that still leaves the question of what to do with those data up to the company itself”.
Where do you think the fleet sector as a whole is headed?
N. van den Eijnden: “In spite of the attention for emerging markets, 83% of all lease contracts are still concluded in the 7 biggest markets in Europe. So those traditional markets will remain crucial. Some European markets are less consolidated than others, so we'll pay attention to those – we don't want our position there to deteriorate as other players consolidate.
We think it will be increasingly important for multinationals to have uniform offers for their international fleets. Our recent merger has enabled us to harmonise our products and processes – a much more difficult exercise for companies with national roots and long histories”.
So, will you break into the Top 3 this year?
N. van den Eijnden: “In terms of financial volume, we are already there. This is because we're financing so many premium cars. Not just BMWs, but also Audis, Mercedes, Volvos and Land Rovers for instance”.
Other interviews with international car fleet executives can be found in the latest issue of Fleet Europe magazine. Discover the online version of the magazine here. To subscribe to Fleet Europe magazine go to the e-Shop.