Mobiles & mobility
The smartphone is revolutionising the way business people travel. We ask experts what effect it is having on rental and leasing markets. By Katie Beck.“Traditional fleet strategies are being sidelined”
David Brennan – chief executive at Nexus Vehicle Rental
The fleet marketplace is seeing traditional strategies being sidelined in favour of approaches that facilitate business mobility, offering cost-effectiveness, and a flexible, integrated range of transport options to suit individual traveller needs.
Decreasing car ownership, the proliferation of – and access to – technology and changing consumer behaviour have been central to driving this change.
Like most things in life, consumers, and business users alike, want on-demand, flexible access to vehicles in any location and for any duration. Technology, and indeed the smartphone, has played a huge part in fuelling this groundswell of demand. The ability to access travel options from the device in the palm of your hand has opened up immediate access to new channels of mobility and a range of travel options.
Although there is much more talk of mobility and the many modes of transport that make up the new ‘mobility mix’, daily rental will continue to play an important role, certainly for business users anyway because of the range of vehicles that can be accessed, the availability of those vehicles and price competitiveness. It’s still early days in the great mobility debate but we will start to see all players in the automotive industry, from rental companies to dealers, adapting their business models based on technology and changing customer behaviours.
“Leasing and rental firms will have to consolidate services”
Carlos Montero, commercial director, FleetEurope
The term mobility is being increasingly used as a buzzword in the fleet and rental industry. Many companies are now tailoring their service for customers by offering a package of alternative travel options to the company car.
This will only be possible through the consolidation of new and existing supply partnerships. Leasing and rental companies should look towards developing/ outsourcing different mobility solutions, allowing them to focus on their core topic of fleet management.
This is entirely dependent on the marketplace continuing to develop software and technology to bring these services together under one, unified mobility package. Alternative mobility solutions should therefore be researched for future use to see if they could be integrated into the realm of fleet management.
“It’s all about choice”
Ken McCall, managing director, Europcar UK Group
It’s all about choice, and that includes choice for employees. They need to be assured that an alternative to driving their own vehicle is not going to be less convenient or impact on their productivity.
Rather than having a fleet of vehicles sitting in a car park ‘just in case’, our Bettercar Sharing and E-Car Clubs work on the principle of dedicated car sharing vehicles for a company, which are parked in the company’s own car park, ready to use by authorised drivers.
A number of employees can, therefore, share a small number of vehicles, reducing the need to use their own cars. Users simply register and reserve a car for a selected period of time. The car is accessed using a card or smartphone, making it a fast, simple and convenient booking and collection process. And once the journey is over, users simply return the vehicle to its parking space and replace the keys in the glove box, leaving the vehicle, which locks automatically.
“It’s all about accessing different modes of transport”
Chris Ness, UK managing director, Ubeeqo
“Mobility can on the face of it appear more like a ‘buzzword’ to replace good old fashioned transport.
However it’s far more than that.
The days of planning journeys using different types of transport are long gone. For example consumer behavior has altered from thinking simply about moving from ‘A to B’ – that is to say where you are now, and what is your end destination – the concept is mobility, not transport.
Taking my example, it demonstrates that it is far more relevant to consider mobility – encompassing all the available modes of transportation enabling people to benefit from the convenience and flexibility while travelling seamlessly.
The multimodal booking app from Ubeeqo is a lifestyle enabler, designed to make its user’s lives easier by providing access to different modes of transport for any number of possible journeys.
“Data capture and usage analysis will be essential”
Nick Butler, head of corporate mobility, Alphabet
I think companies are thinking more about the cost of mobility as a whole rather than just the cost of company cars. It fits into the on-demand model, and satisfies that last minute, ‘want it now’ immediacy and allows employees access to a vehicle as and when they want it.
The approach we take is to speak to customers and analyse their patterns of use for rental vehicles, and establish if any of the lighter-use vehicles could be transferred to AlphaCity car clubs to reduce rental spend.
What we’ve found is that not all companies are aware of what they are spending on rental and how employees are using the rental vehicles. Data capture is vital for establishing a corporate mobility budget – without knowing spend and journey types it’s virtually impossible to scope out what the funding should be.
Bookings for AlphaCity are currently made online but that will develop; all rental and leasing companies are looking towards apps here. The technology must support on-demand services, and smartphones have really changed the face of the industry. I think we, as an industry, really need to push forwards to keep up with demand.
“Technology is enabling transport solutions to be offered more flexibly and affordably to workforces”
Toby Poston, director of communications, BVRLA
“There is definitely a general trend towards rental and leasing companies offering wider ‘mobility’ services. This can include corporate car sharing, flexible car rental and support for companies that want help with their travel as well as their fleet management.
However, there are still some significant barriers to wider uptake. To deliver true mobility as a service – which means accessing travel as a service rather than a particular journey in a particular mode of transport – means that you need integration of the different modes. You need to be able to explore travel options, book them and pay for them via your smartphone, ideally. This is not happening yet, although lots of people are working at it.
Technology is enabling transport solutions to be offered more flexibly and affordably to workforces, whether as a businessneed service or a perk for employees. Ultimately mobility is about bringing several modes of transport together under a single access point, so everything from planning travel to recording expenses is personalised and easily accessible to the user.
Or why not just book a cab…?
Smartphones and apps have shaken up the taxi market too. Katie Beck takes a ride in an Uber taxi.
Founded in 2008 by two disgruntled entrepreneurs after they struggled to hail a taxi, San Francisco-based ‘ride-hailing’ giant Uber now operates in over 400 major cities worldwide. Uber reached a landmark one billion journeys in December 2015, and while services such Lyft have gained a share of business, the company is now rivalling traditional taxi and minicab use in some markets.
Based on reports from US business travellers in Q1 2015, for example, expenses management specialist Certify found that 46% of all car rides were through Uber in major markets, up from just 15% in Q1 2014. Meanwhile, the number of rides in taxis, limos and shuttles was found to have fallen from 85% to 53% over the same period.
An estimated 30,000 people a week now download Uber for the first time in London, and following a recent night bus cancellation and without a taxi in sight, I joined the ranks. Creating an Uber profile was simple; after downloading the app to my iPhone for free I was prompted to provide payment details for future journeys. Paying directly through the app removes the need to carry extra money or hunt for a cash point, and is a feature that I find particularly useful in quieter parts of town.
The fact that the journey is tracked on screen and the exact GPS pick-up and drop-off locations are recorded also means that a driver cannot attempt to overcharge for a journey – a fare is calculated relative to the distance covered and that exact payment is taken when the journey is completed.
The amount of detail provided when a journey is confirmed is extremely useful – a car-shaped icon on the map mirrors the real-life progress of the vehicle as it makes its way to the pick-up location and provides a countdown for how long it will take to arrive. This gives the passenger the option to remain inside a building until the vehicle is directly outside instead of standing out on the street late at night, for example.
Added security is provided by the sharing of driver details; the driver’s name and the registration number of the vehicle that is registered to Uber are displayed alongside a small head-and-shoulders photograph. This ensures that the passenger knows exactly which car to get into and can check that the registered owner is behind the wheel (in London all drivers also have to go through a TfL licensing process). This helps to address some of the concerns associated with a fleet of unliveried vehicles and lends a sense of accountability to the service.
All journeys are recording in the Trip History section of the Uber app for easy analysis. The pick-up and drop-off locations of each trip are clearly presented alongside the driver details and the exact total cost of the journey, so for business expenses, this could be very useful.
The Help section of the app allows the user to submit a comment if they are unhappy with the service they received, or to report an item that has been left behind. I have noticed a steady increase in the popularity of the Uber app, and I will continue to use the service as an alternative to public transport when I am in London and other major cities.