In the transition from Leasys/FCA Bank, Drivalia was created with the ambition of becoming one of the leading European operators in the mobility sector of tomorrow.
This ambition is summed up in the “Planet Mobility” concept. At the core of Drivalia’s vision is the development of a full range of mobility solutions and customisable plans, from electric car sharing to innovative car subscriptions and rental for all durations. The new company deals with mobility in all its facets, providing innovative mobility plans that combine flexibility, digital use, on-demand approach and sustainability.
Omni channel approach
Drivalia is moving along the path of transition, developing innovative solutions dedicated to green mobility and focusing on electric brands, with an omni channel approach encompassing both a digital and physical presence.
Drivalia has an extensive international presence, with operations in seven European countries (Italy, France, United Kingdom, Spain, Portugal, Greece and Denmark), expanding in 2023 to Germany, the Netherlands, Belgium, Switzerland and Poland. The company’s presence in Europe unfolds through more than 650 Drivalia Mobility Stores, a network of physical outlets (expanding to 1,300 by 2025) where the company displays all its mobility solutions.
Drivalia are also investing heavily in the digital side of the business, despite recent reports that the digital element of mobility solutions has seen a decline with more people walking into physical car branches. Merli understands that post-Covid, trends changed and people wanted to go out and interact with people. However, she feels that their solutions offer the customer a mix of both physical and an easy-to-use digital tool for convenience and speed.
Drivalia have integrated their whole spectrum of mobility solutions under one umbrella, which can all be accessed via the Drivalia app.
The most innovative product gaining the most traction, according to Merli, is subscription. This view was echoed by the webcast poll result with 81.4% of participants believing that subscription will emerge as the most important mobility product for the fleet and/or retail sectors by 2025.
Drivalia have integrated subscription with their other mobility products, while some companies are working on a stand-alone subscription model which Merli believes cannot be profitable. Integrating products gives added value and fleets can be used for the changing needs of the customer.
While Volkswagen is reported to be selling its car sharing service WeShare to Miles Mobility, Merli sees car sharing as a “must-have” product that can be integrated with other products. Car sharing fits into Drivalia’s overall concept of mobility solutions. Merli feels that, whilst not as profitable currently, car sharing will be increasingly important from an environmental point of view, especially in cities where it will be harder to own a car.
According to Merli, the benefits for Drivalia in offering the full mobility product range allows their customers to grow with the company, moving between products as their circumstances evolve and their preferences change. Integrating all Drivalia’s mobility products allows the fleet to become more manageable and profitable.
Merli sees the connected car as extremely important for providing customer data although sharing data rights must be considered between the OEM and mobility company. Merli sees the benefits as:
- Using customer data to enhance customer convenience, choice and safety
- Can offer the best products for the customer’s needs
- Providing pay-by-use products
- Can offer additional services
For car sharing, connected car is very important as a full digital experience can be offered to the customer and the car is therefore simpler and more convenient to use. As Merli remarks, “the connected car allows you to serve the customer better.”
Recent bad press surrounding the use of connected car data highlights that there has been a move away from the customer experience and convenience and more focus on how to make money. In New Jersey, USA, a class action lawsuit has even been taken against BMW for charging a subscription fee to receive the core functionality of an option (heated seats) that was installed/ordered from the factory. BMW poured cold water on the criticisms saying that BMW Functions on Demand are [generally] designed to offer premium features through software upload that use data and sensors from factory option hardware already built into BMW vehicles.
Merli believes that you have to find the right balance with connected car data and, when accessing data, this must be enabled in a positive way for the customer and services. Analysis of data is the crucial key which then allows you to adapt products accordingly. Merli feels that the key to being successful is to satisfy the customer, which in turn leads to greater profit. The old saying is ‘sort the wheat from the chaff’ and in this case with the massive amount of data available, deciding what data is relevant is the key.
ESG and the circular economy
FCA Bank want to be a mobility bank for a better planet, linking to environmental support and electrification and other technologies in the market. Drivalia was designed to democratise green mobility, making it accessible to the greatest possible number of people by offering flexible and different solutions. Their financing and mobility solutions maximise the usage of the car, with fleets being reused after their first lifecycle by being re-sold, re-rented, or used for subscription and car sharing, leading to increased efficiency and flexibility.
Drivalia currently see BEVs as core to their sustainability package and product range, striving for all vehicles at Drivalia to be 100% electric by 2030. However, Credit Agricole, their soon-to-be parent company, is investing heavily in hydrogen leading to a possible conflict of ideals. The goal for Drivalia is to sustain any low-impact technology, which Merli feels in the present reality is electric vehicles, with hydrogen possibly becoming reality in the future.
Vision for the future
During this period of rapid change, Drivalia have been listening, first and foremost, to the customer, with continuous customer feedback leading to development and adjustment of their products.
While many auto financial service companies are merging their retail and fleet products, Merli feels that there are different demands and regulation from the two markets. Drivalia offers 20 different subscription packages – to both business and private markets – depending on customer needs. In the subscription market, 20% of business is from B2B while 80% is from the retail market, with more tailored packages for the B2B market and more standardised products for the retail sector.
Drivalia is open to new opportunities and partnerships in their ecosystem.
FCA Bank have been experimenting with Amazon for the past six to seven years. The Amazon partnership has a focus on the retail online channel, with Amazon being widely regarded as customer-focused and oriented and, importantly, trusted.
The CarCloud subscription service has been offered using the trusted Amazon platform, where the customer can purchase a voucher through the Amazon entry point and then go to Drivalia’s online platform to process through their app.
Merli sees dealers as part of Drivalia’s business model as they move down the transition path. However, do the Drivalia Mobility Stores conflict with the dealer model?
Merli believes that the business model of dealers will change, with a Drivalia partnership for mobility purposes as an opportunity for dealers. In addition to their standard roles, dealers can engage with customers about mobility and become a mobility provider, providing new income opportunities that can help offset those lost as dealers become agents.
As a partner, dealers can share in the profit of re-selling used cars or leveraging in re-renting the car. As part of Drivalia’s business model, dealers can be used to sell different mobility solutions in a physical location, with many customers still looking for a physical connection (meet people, pick up car), with all time-consuming paperwork completed efficiently and effectively online.
Staffing impacts of transition
During a period of transition and change, staffing issues are some of the most difficult to resolve. Is it easier to keep and retrain existing staff or simply recruit new young talent?
Merli sees “people as the real asset of the company” in a period of change, and strongly believes that you must retain and motivate experienced staff while also attracting new talent from outside the sector with ‘out of the box’ thinking who can bring an innovative valuation of the products.
Merli observes that you need to share the strategy of the company in the short, medium and long term when recruiting new talent, as young people want to be challenged, motivated and successful, all while having fun!
During such a transition, some existing staff will not want to go on the journey towards mobility or will need to be retrained, and while the cost for retraining, especially in economically challenging times, can be expensive, Merli believes that first and foremost “we must invest in people and invest in technology”.
Merli is convinced that motivational training can come from experienced staff to young people, with motivation shared across the team encouraging greater collaboration amongst staff.
While Merli finds that a good mix across gender is needed to bring your strategy to fruition, there are still extremely low figures of women in the auto industry. Merli feels that this needs to change and a good balance is needed, with women bringing added value to the mobility and financial service areas of the auto industry.
Following the Covid pandemic, working and office dynamics changed, leading to hybrid working conditions for many. FCA Bank are trying to find the right balance for employees to make strategies successful. Merli points to the need for compromise when working in a more flexible way.
Merli believes that happy employees and happy customers leads to success and, while looking at employees’ specific needs, a good mix between home and office working is the best.
So, what motivates Marcella Merli, a successful business woman in a male dominated industry? She goes to work to have fun and pass on her passion for the auto industry to her team, reinforcing her motto of: “Be happy and have fun in what you are doing!”