Matt Dyer, LeasePlan USA: Investing in smart tech to deliver outstanding customer service
Just a couple of months after taking the reins at LeasePlan USA, Matt Dyer sees huge opportunities to leverage the rapidly evolving benefits of technology and telematics to deliver data-driven dividends for fleet managers and their drivers.
Matt Dyer has hit the floor in his new role as president and CEO of LeasePlan USA. Speaking to Global Fleet from LeasePlan USA's headquarters in Georgia with chief commercial officer Ricardo Fonzaghi and marketing director Alison Kirkland chipping in with additional insights, it's clear that Dyer already feels very much at home Stateside.
"The family has just moved into the new home near Atlanta and I'm pleased to say they absolutely love it," enthused the former Managing Director of LeasePlan UK.
Dyer is enthusiastic about working within a global context, having previously enjoyed a successful stint as managing director of LeasePlan International, where he worked extensively with his colleagues in LeasePlan USA.
During his career at LeasePlan UK, Dyer was pivotal in devising a fast-paced innovation strategy characterised by heavy investment in IT systems and new technology and which included the high-profile roll-out of CarNext.com, an innovative remarketing channel for LeasePlan's own high-quality used cars.
Now Dyer is charged with delivering LeasePlan's challenging and ambitious 'What's Next' agenda in the States.
He joins LeasePlan USA as the automotive industry posts sales buoyant figures – although the topline data hides some interesting dynamics – including a continuation and even acceleration of the trend away from conventional sedans to SUVs and compact cross-overs.
"Overall demand continues to be strong and residual values have performed well compared to previous cycles," said Dyer and while interest rates have gone up, the wider economic environment is positive. Unemployment is down at 3.5% and pay increases are running at 3 – 5%, so we are seeing strong demand from fleet customers and private individuals.
"In the US, fleet customers don't have quite the same obsessive focus on RVs that we have seen in Europe in recent years. Here, fleet operators are more interested in getting a great deal up front and then making sure they get operational value for money out the asset during its lifetime by clocking up the miles.
"Open ended lease (in which the fleet operator maintains RV risk) is still by far the most popular form of finance, although some fleet customers are open to trialing different structures where mileage and rental terms are more clearly defined.
"But the traditional approach is to 'sweat the assets' operationally to maximise value – while looking for a bonus on disposal if the used market is strong. For example in 2015 and 2016 – full-size vans were in huge demand nationwide and residual values were incredibly strong so it made sense for some fleets to defleet early and capitalise on the strong used demand.
"But the used market can differ from state to state and from month to month, and it's our in-depth knowledge of the nationwide used market that can really help LeasePlan USA customers maximise their return on open-ended lease while minimising the risk."
Dyer doesn't see a dramatic shift in funding trends in the US market in the near future, but he predicts continuous change in the industry's use of data and telematics to improve customer service and drive efficiencies.
"Innovations like the MyLeasePlan app are going to be transformational in enhancing the service we provide to both drivers and fleet managers. The driver app gives drivers easy access to a whole raft of useful services – from finding and providing directions to cheap gas on the road to reminding them of their fuel card PIN. MyLeasePlan will also log and separate out private and business mileage, find maintenance providers and help keep drivers safe on the road. And with the recent launch of Elle – our very own voice-activated virtual assistant – it's easier than ever for drivers to interact with the services available through MyLeasePlan.
And the data gleaned from MyLeasePlan is providing fleet managers with all the data and analysis they need to manage their fleets more effectively.
"This digital transformation has made it possible for fleet managers and fleet drivers to accomplish more in less time. In turn, it has helped companies find ways to reduce the cost of managing a fleet at a time when the cost of running a fleet vehicle will most likely increase.
"Our new interactive dashboards allow fleet managers to see all their fleet data in one place making it easier to make well-informed strategic decisions based on real world operational data and analytics.”
"But I think one of the strongest emerging trends when it comes to telematics and data is in the field of driver safety and Corporate Social Responsibility – something that has been moving up the executive agenda in Europe for some time. US fleet cars are overwhelmingly job need cars and the mileages are high and the drivers spend a lot of time behind the wheel – so it's important we get it right and deliver the support they need.”
"Fleet drivers covering high mileages need to be safe on the road and duty of care is moving up a lot of corporates' priority lists so we are expecting to work closely with an increasing number of our customers in this field. The MyLeasePlan app has inbuilt driver safety and efficiency system called OneScore, which logs vehicle maintenance history, accidents and training. It will also keep track of your fuel consumption and analyse how your average mpg compares with other drivers on your fleet. By providing the ability to analyse this and other operating data such as maintenance and accident records, we can make it easier for fleet managers to spot issues and intervene to ensure their drivers stay safe."
So which aspects of the US fleet market contrast most starkly with conditions in Europe?
"The US is a colossal continental market unlike any other and having a genuinely national perspective gives proactive fleet operators the opportunity to leverage major efficiencies and cost advantages by putting their fleet strategies on a federal footing.
"Sure – there are differences at state level – but these aren't on the same scale as the differing fiscal – and increasingly – environmental frameworks in Europe. The one obvious exception is California which is way ahead of the federal curve and the EPA when it comes to environmental legislation. This can create challenges for national fleets, but this makes the knowledge we have of different jurisdictions all the more important. Whether it is understanding how local purchase taxes impact procurement or how regional variations in used market demand for certain types of vehicles can impact residual values – we have the benefit of a truly nationwide knowledge base.”
"So we would actually say that having a national/federal fleet strategy – as long as you can tap into the specialist local knowledge that can accurately inform local procurement, operational and residual value considerations. We think this reinforces rather than undermines the case for a national approach."
"The other big difference between the US and Europe is in attitudes to the environment and fleet uptake of Electric Vehicles. As we noted before, California is really taking the lead here and this may create some challenges for our US customers with national fleet policies, but there are some special features of the US that will probably mean the transition to EVs isn't as rapid as in some markets.”
"The distances involved are vast and the mileages travelled by most fleet cars are consequently much higher than in Europe or Asia Pacific, so the evolution of a viable charging infrastructure will be key. Government incentives – or disincentives from using internal combustion-engine vehicles going forward – will also play a major role. The transition to electric will happen over time – but I think the transition is likely to take longer than in our European markets."
"But as a global fleet management specialist, we aim to be up to speed on the evolution of EVs and other low emission technologies across the world, so when and if the demand curve for EVs ramps up in the US, our customers will be able to count on our operational expertise in these emerging technologies to help them frame their future strategies.”
"In fact this highlights one of the aspects of my new role that I find most exciting. Since I've been over here, I have been really struck by the obvious appetite among our clients for adopting a strategic collaborative approach to meeting the challenges of running a fleet in the rapidly changing 21st Century automotive landscape.”
"I am looking forward to working alongside and helping LeasePlan clients to realise the potential of the whole array of emerging technologies to run cleaner, safer and more efficient fleets."
News Source: Global Fleet