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A focus on complex fleets
In the UK or any European country, a fleet of 850,000 vehicles under management would put a company quite firmly at the top of the tree. Across the Atlantic, this staggering number of vehicles makes ARI – a part of the Holman Automotive Group – the second largest vehicle fleet management organisation in North America, though following the recent acquisition of FSG the organisation is primed for further growth in a number of European markets.
ARI has a workforce numbering more than 2,000 in offices throughout the United States, Canada, Mexico, Puerto Rico, Europe and, now, the UK. Combined with its strategic partners the company – which is headquartered in Mount Laurel, New Jersey – controls more than 1.8 million fleet vehicles globally.
The company is very much technology-driven and in the US its focus is on complex fleets where managing data is more important that wielding wrenches. A high proportion – around 70-75% – of its US fleet comprises trucks and the company relies heavily on the use of telematics to gather information on every aspect of each vehicle’s operation.
ARI is no stranger to the UK market where it has previously engaged in partnership agreements with other UK leasing companies, but the acquisition of FSG moves the growth plan into a new gear, providing a foothold in Europe from which a multi-national expansion plan can be launched. “We will leverage our European headquarters as a jumping-off point for further acquisitions,” said Mr Ortell.
What is surprising, perhaps, is that whereas ARI is a major provider of leasing facilities in the US, FSG does not offer any vehicle funding products and has no plans to do so in the foreseeable future. Instead the company will introduce to FSG’s customers some of the sophisticated analytical tools already employed by its US clients, benefiting those who wish to ‘unbundle’ existing contract hire agreements.
A raft of new, highly sophisticated real-time fleet data capture solutions are set to be among the initiatives to be introduced first to FSG customers, including Home Retail Group – the parent company of Argos and Homebase – Network Rail and Travis Perkins. All are long-established FSG customers, which operates 55,000 vehicles, and have already recorded significant fleet operating cost savings as a result of the company’s zero tolerance approach to vehicle maintenance management mated to online reporting systems and analysis.
“ARI is a technology-led organisation that has 20 times the resources of FSG,” said Ortell. “We have a team of 180 IT experts in the United States developing new vehicle management solutions and working in partnership with customers and hardware suppliers to deliver individual reporting products.”
ARI also includes in its technology arsenal a range of predictive analysis tools to help public and private sector fleets use historical data to forecast future costs. “During my discussions with FSG customers it is apparent that all fleets are desperate to improve their capture of real-time data on journeys, vehicles and drivers,” said Ortell.
“ARI has reporting tools that deliver the highest quality analysis to fleet managers throughout North America and provides highly sophisticated telematics solutions to individual customers, frequently in partnership with hardware suppliers. Our philosophy is ‘tell us the problem and we will deliver a solution’.
“Technology is a major differentiator for ARI, and our experts have also developed a range of robust predictive analysis tools. Our investment in technology has resulted in the delivery of numerous online management reporting tools to business and we will bring those solutions to the UK and pilot them with FSG customers,” he added.
FSG has also invested in customer support areas such as its online Interactive maintenance management reporting suite. However, the availability of ARI’s additional resources means significant new investment opportunities, which, according to Mr Ortell, will benefit UK customers and deliver reduced vehicle ownership costs.
ARI says its customers in North America are ahead of UK-based fleets in terms of using technological solutions to improve every aspect of vehicle, driver and journey management, but those resources will be introduced. “Crucially, FSG and ARI will also provide expert support to customers so they can use the new telematics and online reporting tools available to them to maximise cost-saving opportunities,” said Ortell.
16 Jul 2012 10:45