27 May 19

WIKIFLEET: Italy, Europe's unsung mobility pioneer

Arval opens a physical store for private lease customers in Turin. It was a small news item last week, but it underlined a bigger trend – one that remains underreported: Italy’s pioneering role in mobility innovation.  

Italy is one of Europe’s Big Five economies and automotive markets, but somehow it always ends up at the back of the news queue. Also when it comes to mobility trends and innovations, the focus tends to be on the biggest three (Germany, France, the UK), or smaller countries with a higher innovative profile (the Nordics, the Benelux). 

Sheer volume

Yet what happens in Italy also matters, not just because of sheer volume, also because of its directional qualities. 

Talking about volume, Italy’s total corporate fleet numbers around 900,000 units, making it one of Europe’s largest. In 2018, True Fleet sales in Italy topped 360,000 units, which represented 8.5% of the EU total (fourth, after Germany, the UK and France). 

However, a period of several years of sustained growth seems to have come to an end. Corporate sales flatlined last year. The first quarter of this year saw a drop of 10% compared to the same period last year. 

Here are a few recent developments of note. 

CO2 tax

In February, the Italian car market’s SUV, Sports Car and Luxury Car segments experienced double-digit growth. This was a temporary effect of the new CO2 tax that came into effect on 1 March

As in France, the new vehicle tax system introduces a bonus-malus system. However, it is based on NEDC rather than the newer WLTP norm. 

Penalties at purchase range from €1100 (for vehicles emitting 161-174 g CO2/km) to €2500 (>250 g CO2/km). About half the new cars sold in Italy in 2018 emits more than 160 g CO2/km, and would therefore be subject to the penalties. 

Inversely, there are incentives for the cleanest cars, up to €4000 for those emitting less than 20 g CO2/km; and for trading in dirty cars for cleaner ones. The measure may help push up the sales of BEVs and PHEVs, last year no more than 0.3% and 0.2% respectively. 

EV incentives

In May, the Italian government ratified a comprehensive EV subvention programme, with bonuses for zero-to-low-emission cars. The system, which targets not just private consumers but corporates as well, runs until 31 December 2021. There are two categories:

  • Up to €6000 for cars emitting 0-20 g C02/km (e.g. BMW i3, Nissan Leaf, Peugeot iOn, VW e-Golf, etc.) In practice, these are BEVs only.
  • Up to €2500 for cars emitting 21-70 g C02/km (e.g. Hyundai Ionic Plug-in Hybrid, Mercedes C-Class Hybrid, Peugeot 3008 Plug-in Hybrid, etc.) In practice, these are PHEVs only, as regular hybrids (e.g. the ones built by Toyota and Hyundai) exceed the threshold.

As a result of these efforts, it is expected that the ‘greening’ of the Italian fleet (both private and commercial), which until now proceeded at a very slow pace, will pick up and reinforce the general trend towards decarbonisation across the EU. 

Private lease

But Italy’s fleets are not just going green; the peninsula is also a giant laboratory for mobility alternatives. 

Private lease is making great progress in Italy, for example. Currently, some 40,000 Italian private customers already are driving a car via a private lease contract. By the end of the year, that figure is expected to hit 50,000. 

On average, a consumer saves 15% on the cost of a vehicle, using private lease compared to buying it outright. Most private-lease contracts have a commuting aspect, and most users are interested in other forms of progressive mobility, including electric, studies show.

Corporate carsharing is also doing well in Italy. In May, French telematics player Kuantic announced that it would be introducing its corporate carsharing service Mov’InBlue on the Italian market, via its subsidiary Axodel. 

Peer-to-peer carsharing

In the past few years, FCA’s captive leasing company Leasys has been expanding from its home market in Italy into other European markets. In so doing it has been exporting some innovations first introduced on the Italian market. 

One example is its peer-to-peer carsharing platform called U Go, an Airbnb-style service allowing ‘players’ to hire out vehicles acquired via Leasys to ‘users’, and this for periods from a few hours to a few days. 

Already up and running in Italy, the system will be introduced in the UK, France and Spain from September – in combination with the 2019 Alfa Romeo Giulietta.  Before the end of the year, U Go will go live in Germany, the Netherlands and Belgium. The aim is for U Go to hit 50,000 users by 2021. By that time, Leasys (and presumably also U Go) will be present in 13 European markets. 

Operational lease

When it comes to classic leasing, it turns out that Italy’s corporate fleet are completely on board with operational lease, a recent survey by the Corporate Vehicle Observatory (CVO) reveals. 

The service aspect of long-term rental got an 8.2 out of 10, with SMR, insurance and assistance the most appreciated services. Also highly valued: online services, consultancy and telematics. 

It turns out that Italy’s fleet managers are particularly interested in comprehensive offers that include EVs, apps for refuelling and recharging, and formulas moving the lease burden to private consumers. All of which indicates a sector eager to innovate, and certain to enhance its pioneering role in Europe. 

For more on the Italian fleet market, check out the updated entry on Italy on Wikifleet - the collaborative encyclopaedia of county-by-country fleet knowledge by and for fleet professionals.

Authored by: Frank Jacobs