NAFA’s 2018 International Fleet Academy: Fleet Managers at a Mobility Crossroads

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Release date: 7/5/2018

Global fleet and mobility professionals recently packed themselves wall-to-wall in a large conference room in Anaheim to answer the question, “What does mobility have to do with global fleets?”

The answer: just about everything.

As legislators in the United States wrestle with the finer points of electric vehicles, autonomous technologies, cybersecurity, and how all these will impact the world of fleet, other countries are moving forward…countries where global fleet managers have oversight.

Because of that oversight, international fleets are further along in the mobility evolution than their single-country-based counterparts.

That’s why NAFA brought in some of the world’s leading mobility experts to speak at its annual International Fleet Academy (IFA)…and that’s why the room was packed with fleet and mobility experts eager to learn from the experts and each other.

Presenters from Maven, Fleet360, Uber, Sixt, Donlen, and LeasePlan shared their thoughts and engaged with a record number of attendees. While mobility remains an evolving concept, a common thread was inescapable: The mobility evolution is coming, so change now, before you have to.

Darin Walsh, Senior Manager for Maven Fleet at General Motors, discussed a recent report from management consulting company McKinsey which focused on four key areas contributing to shifting in the automotive space: Connectivity, Autonomous Driving, Shared Mobility and Electrification (often referred to as CASE, or ACES). In 2016, 12 percent of new vehicles had some form of connectivity and the trend points towards a doubling of connected vehicles every year. Shared vehicles are expected to hit 26 million by 2020. While the sale of electric vehicles today is relatively small (less than one percent of the U.S. market), the expectation is that 54 percent of new vehicles will be electric by 2040.

IFA keynote speaker Steven Choi, Lead Product Manager - ML/Autonomy for Uber’s Advanced Technologies Group (ATG), fascinated the audience with his story of how and why his company is in the autonomous vehicle arena. With over 1.3 million road deaths every year, Uber’s goal is to help drastically reduce that number through the use of autonomous vehicles.

Choi also discussed the use of autonomous trucks for over-the-road delivery. There appear to be great opportunities for the highway routes. By their very nature, highways are more constrained, with fewer variables (e.g. no bicyclists or pedestrians). As such, Uber ATG’s machine learning group, headed by Choi, can more rapidly develop an autonomous truck.

Hans Damen, Partner at Fleet360, shared his views on the emerging trend of measuring the total cost of mobility (TCM). This is very popular within European organizations but is rapidly gaining interest in the North American market too. The fundamental concept is to measure all aspects of moving people within an organization beyond the cost of a company car. He predicts the tipping point will occur in 2020 so he encourages fleet managers to begin measuring TCM now by engaging with key stakeholders including human resources and travel leaders within your organization.

Donlen’s Mobility Business Leader John Korte and Sixt’s Senior Automotive/Leasing Fleet Industry Executive Stuart Donnelly shared the stage to discuss the emerging concept of mobility as a service (MaaS).

“More things have been done in the past five years in automobiles than in the previous 50 years. The same holds true with fleet,” said Korte. With changing demographics, an increase in urban living, and shifting social priorities, there is a demand for more flexible alternatives to a company car. Ultimately, it is a shift from a vehicle-centric approach to a driver-centric focus.

Sixt is among a number of companies now offering a subscription service allowing the driver to choose the vehicle that is right for their immediate needs, including rental cars. Donnelly said, “The challenge, the reason most of us haven’t done anything about it, is the convenience factor. That car sits outside when I need it, but depreciates. If you had a FitBit for your car and saw how much you use it, it would be very expensive.”

Berno Kleinherenbrink, Senior Vice President Commercial, LeasePlan, shared his thoughts on why fleets have a responsibility to drive the change toward electrification. Company car drivers drive three times the number of miles driven by the average driver.

In comparisons, electric vehicles have shown to be 26 to 43 percent cleaner than their internal combustion engine equivalent.

Of course, infrastructure needs to keep up with the increasing demand for the vehicles. Sixty percent of charging is done at home, so there is a need for more public charging stations and companies will have to make accommodations in their parking lots, he added.

The capstone of the event involved a lengthy panel discussion with the group of presenters. IFA Planning Committee Chair Heidi DiAngelo and NAFA Secretary/Treasurer David Hayward moderated this lively discourse. A common theme among the questions was how fleets should get started with their own integrations.

Kleinherenbrink’s answer was simple: “Start with one vehicle.” There will be resistance. As with any truly seismic change, many people will look on aspects of mobility – car sharing, in particular – as a loss of oversight and control that a company cannot afford. Yet, as seen and heard from this pre-con event, just about everything is changing and it might fall to the holdouts to accept that change will happen with or without them.