Our spotlight turns its attention to Dan Hawkes, head of sales performance, corporate mobility and market intelligence at Europcar Mobility Group UK. Hawkes discusses Europcar’s SHIFT 2023 ambitions, what to look out for in fleet and casts his eye into the future and what it may hold in store.
Hawkes got into the fleet sector having always had an attraction to cars, ever since an early age watching his dad tinkering under a bonnet on Saturday mornings. He also used to race model cars in the UK Championships, which he says was his first experience of electric vehicles.
“I subsequently joined the automotive world, back in 2002 after graduating from Exeter University, working as customer relations manager for Virgin Cars,” he adds,
“Back then Virgin was trying to disrupt the new car market through an online car retail model where vehicles were delivered directly to customers’ homes. Following my stint with Virgin I then spent five years working at Renault’s UK Headquarters and have been with Europcar Mobility Group UK since 2012.”
In his current role since 2018, one of Hawkes’ main focuses is to help educate both the sales team and customers on the financial and environmental benefits of adopting new mobility and multi-modal strategies, rather than rely on traditional models of ownership or leasing.
What do you think has been the most influential fleet car ever?
I think the introduction of the Toyota Prius back at the turn of the 21st century was a major milestone. To me it’s the grandfather of the modern technologies that we are seeing coming through today. It didn’t sell in mass volumes back then – perhaps it was simply ahead of its time!
What one fleet industry-relevant thing would you change if you were able to go back in time?
I would travel back to the ’90s (or maybe even as far back as the ‘20s) to ensure there was a clearer understanding of the impact that internal combustions’ bi-products have on our planet and its inhabitants. Manufacturers could have then focused more of their efforts in developing cleaner technologies and we could have avoided any U-turns on the Government’s transport strategy. With a different approach we might now be in a more favourable position in which a collaborative approach was possible with manufacturers and Government more clearly aligned in their efforts towards cleaner air. I’m not sure, however, what we would do with all that spare oil!
What is your company’s focus for 2019?
At Europcar Mobility Group UK we are constantly looking at how we can increase the value that we offer our customers. We are now focusing on the provision of a broader mobility proposition that can fulfil all of our customers’ transport needs, all via a single platform that provides control and insight, enabling better business productivity.
The current uncertainty around the economy, the Benefit-in-Kind tax regime and the Government’s clean air strategy is also presenting a number of challenges for businesses when it comes to long-term planning. We have, therefore, also invested in offering the essential flexibility that UK firms require in order to keep employees on the road, but without having to make long-term financial commitments.
What’s in the pipeline for your company in the future?
In this rapidly evolving environment, Europcar Mobility Group is following a strategic roadmap called ‘SHIFT 2023’. With the aim of delivering a broader mobility proposition to individuals and businesses, the goal is to double our active customer base from 7.7 million to 15 million customers; achieve a Group Net Promoter Score of 50% and generate Group Revenue above €4 billion. Our Urban Mobility activities are expected to be key to achieving these aims, generating around 10% of the total Group revenue in 2023.
What are the key trends to look out for in fleet?
Over the coming years we will most definitely see a change in behaviours for fleets. I anticipate that one of the key changes we’ll see will be the appearance of more and more Mobility Managers, who have a holistic view of travel across their organisation.
The transition to a higher proportion of Alternative Fuel Vehicles (AFV) is also inevitable. This is already well underway and is set to go forwards not backwards in the coming years.
I’d also anticipate further changes to the traditional company car model. It’s likely that business registration volumes will decline as more and more employees move towards either cash4cars or are allocated a mobility budget. And further down the line, we will see vehicle autonomy increasing towards Level 5 and possibly beyond, bringing with it increased safety for occupants and pedestrians as well as benefits in the form of reduced congestion. This will be supported by an increase in vehicle connectivity, which will also provide a greater level of data that fleet (or mobility) managers will be able to analyse to make better informed decisions
Given the current uncertainty from government, what can fleets do to mitigate this?
It was great to see that the Government has now published its review of WLTP and vehicle taxes, which now gives business clearer direction on the coming years, however this does not necessarily mean that the pace of change in legislation and taxation will slow. My advice to any business during this unprecedented time of uncertainty is to try to minimise the length of any fleet commitment. This will allow for greater flexibility, giving businesses the agility to stay on the front foot and react quickly to any unexpected changes to local or National legislation. Shorter term commitments will also allow organisations to tap into new technologies at faster rate, which themselves will bring improved safety for employees as well as cost savings and a reduction in the business impact on the environment.
In the short 5-10 year term, what do you see changing in the fleet world?
It’s a difficult one to answer as in some areas like vehicle technology things are moving so rapidly but in other areas we seem to be lagging behind. Above all, I anticipate a massive shift away from diesel power trains to a world where BEV, PHEV and Mild Hybrids are more prevalent. General levels of vehicle autonomy will have increased along with connectivity and as a result we will see vehicle downtime reduced, however we won’t all be sitting back as we get ferried around in ‘robo-taxis’ or on hoverboards – I think that’s a little way off.
I do anticipate, however, that businesses will be tapping into more innovative solutions for both employee travel in urban areas and for last mile logistics, as well as applying a multi-modal approach to staff mobility. And this brings both cost benefits and improved employee satisfaction. If current trends are anything to go by, we will continue to see more and more people taking cash for cars but the offer of cash maybe replaced with the provision of a mobility budget rather than employees being encouraged to purchase private vehicles, which will then end up being used as grey fleet. A move to mobility budgets should also help firms overcome the challenges of more and more clean air zones with increasingly stringent stipulations – after all we do have the overarching target of succeeding on the road to zero.
Imagine it’s 2040: how do you see the fleet world?
Wow, 20+ years from now, that really is hard to imagine as so much could change. Electrification will very much be embedded into our daily lives and urban locations will be car free, bringing additional challenges for the ‘mobility’ managers of the future. Big brother will be looking down on us and measuring our driving style from both a safety perspective and for the impact we have on our environment. At a personal level, individuals will progress from fitness trackers to ‘impact trackers’ where they become much more aware of the impact of their personal choices in mobility. There will still be a place for diesel vehicles in more rural locations and for high mileage users but these vehicles will have been fitted with the next generation of emission reducing technology and they will very much be in a minority, as wireless, rapid charging will be in an abundance and vehicle range will have exceeded the ‘magic 300 miles’ meaning that BEVs can fulfill 99.9% of use cases.
What are your thoughts on electrification, an opportunity or a red herring?
Most definitely an opportunity. It is clear that we cannot continue down the road of polluting our environment and we must do whatever we can to reduce our carbon footprint. Although not the silver bullet, electric vehicles, whether full BEV or Mild Hybrid, will play a massive part in this.
Electrification also brings with it added convenience for the driver. I’m sure my grandchildren will be amazed when I tell them I had to drive down the road and pour liquid into the side of my car in order to make it go!