Comment: How 2020 shows progress in the face of adversity
Alfonso Martinez, managing director at LeasePlan UK, looks back at the biggest challenges and breakthroughs of the year.
As we come to the end of what has been an extremely difficult and emotional year, it’s easy to forget just how much has been accomplished within the fleet and automotive sectors during the last 12 months.
It’s been anything but straightforward, but with the power of hindsight, our collective successes are clear. Millions of key workers across the country have been kept mobile throughout the pandemic, all against a backdrop of widespread closures and backlogs across the manufacturing and maintenance sectors.
All of this has required a huge degree of flexibility. From the millions of employees across the country who uprooted their daily schedules to work from home, almost overnight, to the companies that had to reinvent their business model entirely, this year has tested our resilience and ability to adapt quickly to change. Whether it’s contract extensions or payment waivers, we’ve done whatever we can to support our customers. However, this year has taught us that we, as an industry and as a wider economy, need to be more prepared for the unexpected.
It’s this newfound need for flexibility that will come to define vehicle leasing contracts going forward. Not only do flexible fleet contracts allow businesses to handle dynamic and unpredictable changes, but they also empower them to make bolder decisions around their future. This will be key in supporting the transition from ICE vehicles to EVs in the next few years, as an increasing number of companies look to dip their toe in the water.
Speaking of which, we must acknowledge the huge strides towards electrification that we’ve made this year here in the UK. Against a backdrop of birdsong and clearer skies thanks to lower carbon emissions, Covid-19 has really bolstered the industry’s appetite for EVs. One of the defining moments for us was the revelation through our Car Cost Index that for the first time ever, certain types of EVs are cheaper to run than ICE equivalents.
This is a landmark moment for the automotive industry and a sure sign that the long-awaited tipping point for EV affordability is finally here. 2020 is the year in which the industry said EVs are no longer a luxury for the few, but a reality for the many. This is especially true for employees whose employers offer an EV salary sacrifice scheme, which brings down the net cost of driving an EV considerably. All of this is particularly reassuring in light of the recent announcement from the UK Government that the date for the ban of sales of new fossil fuel vehicles will be brought forward to 2030 – an ambitious move that we are fully behind.
Despite the adversity we faced this year, and the radical shakeup the pandemic caused to our businesses and ways of living, we’ve made it through, resilient and strong. Our customers have relied on our vehicle knowledge and mobility expertise more than ever before, and we expect this consultative partnership to strengthen and extend into 2021 and beyond. The role of the fleet provider has truly never been so important.