How to run a Europe-wide fleet

If you read nothing else, read this…

  • In the European alignment of a fleet policy, employers should embrace differences, as well as similarities.
  • Fleet standards, tax issues and manufacturer preference differ from country to country across the European Union, so take this into consideration.
  • If possible, a single person should be made responsible for fleet management, but as many different countries as possible should be included in the conversation.

A pan-European fleet policy can have general principles but must take account of local differences, says Jennifer Paterson

When aligning fleet policies across Europe, organisations should embrace the differences, as well as the similarities. A one-size-fits-all approach is rarely the answer.

Matt Dyer, commercial director for Lease-Plan UK, says: “A lot of organisations go into an international approach of one size fits all but that does not fit anybody. An employer can have an international policy without everything being the same in each country.”

The first thing to consider when aligning a fleet policy across Europe is that standards are rarely the same. In the UK, company cars are taxed according to CO2 emissions. In Germany, the benefit is determined partly in the
same way, but is then adjusted by the distance commuted. In Eastern Europe, fleets are largely taxed according to the car’s list price, as though it is a payment in addition to salary.

Alex Barbereau, pan-European account director at GE Capital, says: “Organisations will always have to consider local market specifics. A CO2 cap of 120g/km can be absolutely acceptable in France from a market practice and tax perspective, but it will be higher than that in Germany.

“In terms of green agenda and taxation, countries are not shifting at the same speed. Some are at the forefront of that landscape, such as the UK. But some countries have not even changed their taxation.”

Employers should compile a list of what aspects of the policy they want to look at. For instance, implementing a standard mileage term across Europe will create challenges. Alastair Kendrick, tax director at MacIntyre
Hudson, says: “An employee using their car in Germany will cover a far greater mileage than one in Norway, given the country’s size.”

Type of car provided

Another consideration is the type of car provided. Stuart Edginton, international sales manager at ALD Automotive, says: “It is difficult to tell a country it must work with certain manufacturers. German manufacturers are strong in the UK and Germany. Italian or French manufacturers are not automatically a good fit in certain markets.”

Although manufacturers cannot be synchronised across countries, it is possible to choose a Europe-wide leasing provider. Kendrick says while leasing firms may not have businesses across Europe, employers will not want to deal with an associate or subcontracted firm, but the main provider.

Operational challenges must also be considered. An employer may have a pan-European fleet management team to decide on the mandate for harmonising car policies. If possible, there should be a central person to head up
fleet management, but the alignment should still be a conversation among many. Edginton says: “When fleet reviews are undertaken, the employer will often sit down with its fleet-related contacts and discuss its objectives.”

Dyer adds: “International organisations work best when they lay out clear principles on how key fleet decisions should be made, without just saying these are the decisions.”

Setting similar goals but embracing key differences is the key to aligning European fleet policies. Dyer says: “Employers can have an umbrella fleet policy that covers the key principles or conditions they want to replicate
in each country. It is about having a clear understanding of where it makes sense to position it at an international level and where it has to be a local choice.”

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