MD ALD/LeasePlan Belgium: ‘Our world will be completely different in ten years’

In May of this year, vehicle lease company ALD Automotive announced that it had successfully acquired 100% of LeasePlan, one of the world’s leading fleet management and mobility companies. More than enough reasons for us to talk with Johan Portier, the new Country Managing Director of ALD Automotive/LeasePlan in Belgium.

This transformative acquisition represented a step-change that positions the combined group as the leading global sustainable mobility player with a total fleet of 3,3 million vehicles managed across 44 countries worldwide. The new name for the merged company is still to be released.

“By joining forces, ALD Automotive and LeasePlan will lead the way to net zero and further shape the digital transformation of the industry,” the press release claimed at the time. The combined entity should leverage on scale and complementary capabilities to strengthen its competitiveness and deliver sustainable growth.

The company recently announced a big budget to buy 15 000 electrified cars over the next three years. The investments totaling €600 million come in equal parts through ALD and the European Investment Bank (EIB). The money will be spent on 7 500 all-electric cars and the same number of plug-in hybrid vehicles.

An ideal moment to have a chat with Johan Portier, the man who will be steering the Belgian branch of the company into the new era.

Scale is important

“The merger between the two companies was needed,” Portier says. “Worldwide, the company’s scale is important; we need to digitalize cleverly with smart people and be innovative, and the merger gives us more purchase power. Bigger also means more solid for things to come.”

“We need innovation of all kinds at all moments. We aim to plug in at every moment in the lifeline of our clients. As a mobility organization, we must be ready for changes every moment. That needs innovative power at all levels and in all places.”

Purchase power

“Through the merger, our purchase power is the biggest in the sector. We have to create an ecosystem that grows together with us. Do we have to be afraid of mistakes? No, trial and error are part of the job and not a big problem when you have our size. We see it as a big playground where we can also have experiments and new ideas.”

“Both companies are also complementary. We are the biggest in operational leasing; apart from that, both former companies have their own products. ALD Automotive was more into all forms of mobility, and it has a more mature view of what is happening in the world of mobility. LeasePlan was more car-focused.”

Dead money

“Time will change the relationship between a driver/owner and his car. Do we all have to own one? In Belgium, this is still rocking the boat, but in time it will change. The younger generation sees its mobility differently. It’s a growing market, be it the second-hand market or other solutions.”

“A car is too much dead money for a family budget in a more insecure world. These last years, we see that this family budget is geopolitically steered. That will lead to alternatives for ownership, like subscription formulas, car sharing, and in the end, maybe autonomous cars on call.”

“I see this new form of individualism in mobility as a positive evolution. Society is constantly evolving, and there are now much more ways of living together, in typical families or other compositions. Our clients put their financial risk management for their mobility in our hands. I see car sharing as the solution in the future, with a private lease as an intermediate step.”

The automotive sector will contract

“In Belgium, there are still 5,4 million cars privately owned and only 600 000 cars in the leasing sector. I see this second figure grow to one million, but the other one will contract, and the automotive sector with it. In the future, we won’t need that many cars on our roads anymore; we will manage them more efficiently.”

“Will this influence our business? Of course. One of the major reasons for the merger of our companies is cost reduction through synergies and other measures. But will this lead to personnel redundancy?  I don’t think so.”

“At least not for the bulk of our employees. We want to grow; even now, we are hiring new people. The structural fusion we are now implementing (slowly but surely) will have the biggest influence on the higher management level: we don’t need two managers for the same function; we don’t need two boards of directors.”

The client will benefit

“There will be a huge advantage for our clients after the merger. We will deliver the best of both worlds by streamlining and combining our processes and systems. Certainly, where service is concerned. Our complementarity will lead to the best practices coming forward.”

“I’m convinced our world will also be completely different within ten years. But the classic setting will still hold on for a certain time, and we will still go for growth there. The world certainly isn’t uniform; we must adapt to local demands and circumstances as global players. New ideas and services aren’t created in meeting rooms; they arise in the field, which has always been ALD’s strength to capture these tendencies.”

Bright future

“We want to relieve the consumer as much as possible, give him all the comfort he wants. Digitalizing and AI will also give us new possibilities in this field. For example, maintenance of goods and services can be foreseen and planned accordingly, without too much nuisance for the client.”

“Implementing a fusion of this size takes time, and we surely don’t want to rush it. Worldwide, we have 3,3 million vehicles to manage and 17 600 people to steer in doing this. In Belgium, we represent 180 000 vehicles and 600 employees. We won’t be that submarine that disappears underwater for two years until our fusion is finished. We will stay focused on our business, now and in the future.”

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