In Asset Finance Connect’s recent webcast, in association with Leaseurope and Eurofinas, Arval’s Deputy CEO and Chief Commercial Officer, Bart Beckers, shared his vision for Arval’s future in a changing and challenging market.
In BNP Paribas Group’s 2022 full-year results, it was reported that Arval had expanded its global leased fleet by 8.3%, including acquisitions, growing the fleet to over 1.6 million. Globally Arval leased around 300,000 electrified vehicles by the end of 2022, four times the amount compared to 2019. And two successful acquisitions in 2022 of Terberg Business Lease Group and BCR Group have helped to expand Arval’s fleet.
Expanding fleet businesses
With acquisitions aplenty in the fleet industry, vehicle fleet businesses are simply getting bigger, with the merger of ALD and Leaseplan scheduled for 2023 creating a combined fleet of 3.5 million units, Arval with 1.6 million units and partner company Element within the Element Arval Global Alliance with more than 4 million units, as a whole. In addition, from a BNP Paribas standpoint, millions of vehicles are financed (including Arval’s fleet).
With fleet numbers and operator sizes expanding, more cars are needed each year presenting greater challenges for large fleet operators to source the cars they need during times of supply issues. As Bart Beckers notes, “this is a challenge but not a new challenge.”
Beckers believes that size does indeed matter in the fleet industry but not just on a global scale. On a local scale, fleet operators can work with local clients and partners, while on a global scale they are able to invest in solid IT and digital suites to further leverage this scale and invest or indeed acquire competitors and partners.
A significant strategic partnership can be found with BNP Paribas’ partnership with Jaguar Land Rover (JLR), where the power of a bank can make a real difference to the scale of a business. With Arval joining up with their BNP Paribas colleagues in personal finance and automotive retail, BNP Paribas Group can offer a full suite of possibilities in a seamless one-stop-shop environment with a digital suite that is built for those specific needs. Different BNP Paribas divisions can therefore be used by the partner, such as JLR, for different needs. Such an operation has been deployed in nine geographies at the beginning of 2023 with BNP Paribas Group optimistic about how it will make a difference to the market.
While many vehicle leasing companies are merging their retail and fleet divisions, Beckers does not see this as an additional problem but rather a growth opportunity. Out of Arval’s 1.6 million vehicles, more than 1 million are still in the corporate sector and the rest is other business including retail, where private leases are a growing segment in many countries and the domain where Arval are competing head-on with manufacturers.
Transition to BEVs
Bart Beckers believes that price matters in any industry and particularly in the auto industry with the transitions to electric vehicles. Price is always an important issue, whether it is a private individual or large company.
To see the benefits of electrification, fleet managers need to adopt the TCO (total cost of ownership) method for analysing fleet cost and the TCM (total cost of mobility) approach, if they start using other forms of mobility, rather than using a monthly rental approach.
Larger companies are now driven just as much by their CSR and ESG agendas as TCO. And they also need to keep their own employees satisfied with the company car being used as a loyalty instrument. Charging infrastructure is extremely important too and must be affordable, with energy networks and energy pricing following suit.
Arval is concerned that cars are becoming less and less affordable. Bart believes that it is important that everyone (and not just the well off) can afford a car.
New entrants within the OEMs are bringing more accessible vehicles and prices to the global market, and Beckers believes that this should be embraced.
ESG and CSR are now seen as big drivers in the fleet business with large multinational companies in mature local markets willing to pay a premium for the environmental option. As Beckers confirms, “ESG is extremely important and growing in importance with large multinationals” as it is one way to really make a difference.
Often this is combined with fiscal incentives, with large corporate accounts pushing forward with governments’ efforts. Bart believes that fleet companies and governments must help as “we owe this to the environment as an industry… and Arval wants to play a role.”
Arval is taking a leading role in the net zero transition with feedback from Arval Mobility Observatory Fleet and Mobility Barometer highlighting that in most countries (one in two of the 25 Arval countries) they have already started embracing EVs and, at the end of 2022, Arval’s new order intake over all Arval entities was 35% EVs.
As part of BNP Paribas’ Horizon 25 strategic plan, Arval’s objective is to have 700,000 electrified vehicles in fleet by 2025, of which 350,000 BEVs. At the end of 2022, there were 300,000 electrified vehicles as a result of Arval’s determination and taking calculated risks with residual values (RVs).
However, the results of AFC’s accompanying webcast poll highlight that the main force influencing the selection of fleet BEVs over ICE is price (financial – personal tax advantages), with sustainability coming in second. These results link to a recent Arval Mobility Observatory survey conducted by IPSOS across six different companies who are mature clients of Arval. The study found that price and fiscal benefits were the most important consideration for companies, while electrified vehicles came fifth and environmental considerations unfortunately were tenth in the survey: as Beckers sadly noted, “Price and fiscal benefits are needed to get people on board.”
Setting residual values
Setting RVs is a difficult job, especially with some fluctuant new model prices and new companies with no heritage, such as Chinese OEMS, entering the global market.
Beckers explains in the video below that, while not an easy job, setting RVs for electric vehicles is Arval’s core competence.
When setting RVs, Arval initially assesses the vehicle and can then influence the price and the possibility of vehicle multi-cycling, with cars being reused two to four times, all contributing to the risk.
Arval have an interest in new mobility products with a focus on mid-term rental products, Arval Connect telematics solutions, and products where you pay by the time you have the car.
Arval’s Beckers sees BEVs as indirectly being the catalyst for a whole new suite of customer mobility products. This is linked to changing times following the Covid pandemic with different living and working patterns being adopted. Although we now drive less miles, Beckers points out that we still need cars going forward, especially if we are not based in cities.
With new mobility comes new processes, new platforms and systems, and new people, so is it best to form strategic partnerships in your ecosystems or go it alone which could possibly be the slower option? Arval Beyond – Arval’s strategic plan 2020-25 that was developed before Covid – highlights their way forward in the world of new mobility.
Arval Beyond has four pillars focusing on mobility, electrification, flexibility and connected, and the most important pillar, according to Bart Beckers, partnerships.
Arval Beyond – Arval’s strategic plan 2020-25
360° Mobility: 360° Mobility transforms Arval from a car-centric company into a mobility company. In 2025, 100% of Arval countries will offer alternative and sustainable mobility products or services.
Good for you, good for all: Arval aims to become a key leader in energy transition and sustainability by helping customers to protect the environment and create safer roads. With Good for you, good for all, Arval will have 700,000 electrified vehicles in its fleet by the end of 2025 (including 350,000 BEVs), across all its 30 countries, as well as registering a 35% reduction in its fleet’s average CO2 emissions, and a 10% decrease in its overall accident rate.
Connected & Flexible: Arval is building a simpler and highly connected leasing offer. Based on a combination of new technologies and services, it will enable drivers to enter a new era of mobility with a much simpler driving experience. By 2025, more than 80% of Arval’s fleet will be connected and will offer a wider set of services to make the driver’s life easier.
Arval Inside: Since the creation of Arval in 1989, partnerships have been part of its DNA, starting with banks and car manufacturers, and now extending to other stakeholders. In 2025, 100% of Arval countries will have signed successful partnerships with international or strong local players.
Partnerships are important to Arval; not just distribution partnerships with companies such as JLR but also partnering with fintechs to scale up faster.
One strategic partnership, which has helped Arval to scale up and is complimentary to Arval’s legacy, is RideCell, which deploys next-generation global shared mobility solutions.
When asked which products will emerge as the most important mobility product for the fleet sector by 2025, delegates of the webcast poll unanimously felt that subscription (47%) followed closely by Pay-by-Use (44%) products will be the most prominent mobility solutions in the future.
However, if price is one of the biggest drivers for BEV at the moment, will we see a rise in the premium subscription product, where costs are higher than a regular lease or PCP and not affordable to middle-income customers? Beckers feels that higher subscription costs are the price we pay for more flexibility and an easy-to-understand model which is appreciated from a consumer perspective.
Arval’s Beckers sees us moving into a world of mobility with a combination of subscription and full-service lease/PCP, but not 100% subscription.
The hardest aspect of the subscription model to get right, according to Beckers, is managing utilisation. This challenge is similar to that faced by short-term rental businesses. Going forward, to make subscription a successful mobility solution, customers need to get used to driving different and older cars, while fleet companies need to find ways of gaining higher utilisation from existing fleets. Refurbishment costs also need to be controlled.