7 nov 19

Fleet Europe Summit: from village idiots to mobility gurus

“I’m now being called the ‘Father of MaaS’, but when I explained the concept back in 2006, I was the village idiot,” said Sampo Hietanen, CEO of MaaS Global. Times have changed. MaaS and carsharing are now valid alternatives to the company car, according to Hietanen and Marco Reppert, CEO of ShareNow at the Fleet Europe Summit.  

The mobility revolution is here, and it’s now. Introducing the two speakers of the second Main Stage Session, Steven Schoefs (pictured, right), editor in chief of Fleet Europe, cited some results of his Global Fleet Survey: “Of the international fleet managers surveyed, 39% said they would offer bikesharing in 2020, 46% said they would be offering a micro-mobility solution, and 63% will offer carsharing next year.”

Hard part
“The single-occupancy vehicle will be hit,” said Hietanen (pictured, left), confirming the trend. “But that’s the easy part. The hard part is that everybody will have to change their business model.”

Citing another survey, he said that “38% of drivers are ready to use MaaS. In Europe alone, that would remove 70 million private cars from the road. Only 28% said they definitely wouldn’t use MaaS.”

But as one of the main evangelists of Mobility-as-a-Service, Hietanen knows that offering MaaS as a flexible alternative to cars is not enough. “The question we need to ask our potential customers and keep asking, is: What would you love more than owning a car?”

Tricky hoop
For MaaS to be the answer to that question, it has to jump through a particularly tricky hoop: “We need a radical change in mobility, but not at the cost of the freedom people have come to associate with the car.”

As an aggregator company, MaaS Global “has zero product; we are only as good as the services and products we aggregate. The customer wants the same guarantee from MaaS that he gets from his car today: to go anywhere, anytime, on a whim. That’s the issue we need to resolve.”

Joint venture
Freedom was also on the mind of Olivier Reppert (pictured, centre), the CEO of ShareNow – the carsharing joint venture born from the merger between Daimler’s Car2Go and BMW’s ShareNow. “The car gave us freedom, but the more freedom we took, the less we were given.”

He had a similar story to Hietanen’s: “Ten years ago, when we started with free-floating carsharing, there were people within our own company who saw that as a problem for us manufacturers. But no: I was convinced then as I am now that it’s part of the solution.”

Increasingly relevant
Both MaaS and carsharing are tools to raise the usage rate of vehicles from today’s ridiculously low share of 4% to more profitable heights – by reducing their number and using the remainder more efficiently. And they’re increasingly relevant to the public. Especially the younger generations. And especially younger employees.

“Our highest growth is in the B2B segment,” said Reppert. “That’s because employees are asking their companies for flexible mobility solutions.”

Following their two short presentations, Schoefs put four FAQs to both gentlemen – oft-repeated barriers to the introduction of mobility solutions as an alternative to the (now ‘classic’) company car. 

  • Too expensive

Hietanen: “Yes and no. Ideally, you could go to your fleet manager and ask for a mobility budget that is equal to the budget of your company car. But the problem there is that for that money, you now get an offer that is not comprehensive enough – yet.”
Reppert: “Carsharing should not be seen as a replacement of company cars, but as a complement to it. Employees want the whole ecosystem of mobility.” 

  • Not predictable enough

Reppert: “I don’t agree. We know at all times where all our cars are. And as for the public transport alternative: the predictions are actually quite good. If a bus or train is delayed, you’ll know immediately by how many minutes.”

Hietanen: “The mobility guarantee, when mobility freedom via MaaS is as predictable as with cars, is the Ford T of mobility. Then it will really take off.”
“When people buy a car, they think a long way ahead to all the things they can use it for – cars are about dreams, about the future. But what if we can offer you a better dream? If you buy cars, you’ll probably own about six in your lifetime. How about 100 cars? And instead of relatively local mobility, how about we offer you the world? That’s the goal.”

  • Too local

Reppert: “Let me ask you a question: do you have a company car? And when you fly to another country, does it follow you there? Contrary to the complaint that mobility solutions are too local, it’s actually the other way around.”
Hietanen: “Remember when mobile phones were new and seemed magical? Now they’re normal. The same will happen with MaaS. It’s about expanding the dream – eventually, it will cover the world.”

In conclusion: even if the solutions don’t yet cover the entire world, there’s no excuse for corporate fleets not to offer them to their employees – initially as add-ons, with more improvements sure to follow soon. 

As those solutions become increasingly relevant, yesterday’s village idiots will turn out to be tomorrow’s mobility gurus. 

Authored by: Frank Jacobs