All change: How we can rewire our worlds

Nick Brownrigg, BVRLA Vice-Chair and Chief Executive Officer at Alphabet GB discusses business opportunities presented by a shift in attitude towards flexible travel options and environmental consciousness.

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This year is like no other. The impact of Covid-19 has changed our home and working lives the world over. It has accelerated business and consumer trends, which directly impact the fleet industry and require fleet operators to respond quickly.

Commuting to the office almost completely stopped and while some offices remained open at reduced capacity, only 23% of consumers felt comfortable using public transport in London (source: Retail Gazette). For many commuters, the car has been the best option for keeping some businesses in operation. Our Fleet Streets report found that of the 58% of commuters that did feel comfortable returning to work, 60% were using their personal car to make the journey.

This rapid shift to home working, with a much more mixed approach likely in the future, presents businesses with an opportunity to rethink requirements. From flexible travel options to an increased private transport offering, there are lots of options for businesses to explore.

The changes brought about by the pandemic also highlight the need for digitalisation. While many companies were already moving in this direction, the need to deliver services efficiently and remotely, as well as providing self-service options, has become more pressing. Fleet managers need access to digital vehicle ordering and tracking, and all employee paperwork kept in one place, from handling parking fines to any travel documentation. The manufacturers’ journey should also become completely digital when working with leasing companies. As convenience and personal safety remain the new premium, we want our customers to look to us not only for agility and expertise, but because they know we will continue to put their personal wellbeing at the centre of everything.

Carbon emissions have plummeted at an unexpected pace due to the lack of human movement. Our latest research report found that consumers are emerging from the pandemic much more conscious of the impact we have on the environment. Businesses need to have genuine environmental sustainability worked into their fleet strategies to benefit from improved brand perception from customers, as this might ultimately dictate preference.

Environmental consciousness has also seen the electric vehicle industry accelerate. Consumer perceptions are changing fast: our research showed over 55% of people felt delivery vans should be electric, while one in three said they would be happy to pay extra for an electric delivery vehicle.

The shift in attitudes is being matched by sales. At Alphabet, we’ve seen electric car orders grow 124% year-on-year since 2019, while the plug-in space grew 41%. Alongside demand, there are cost savings to be uncovered for businesses and employees by electrifying fleets, particularly with the new benefit-in-kind (BIK) rates. With this pause in business from Covid-19, businesses can analyse their existing fleets. Fleet providers, transport companies and businesses all have a role to play in embracing more sustainable practices. This is the perfect opportunity for fleets to address their alternative drivetrain strategy.

As these technological and societal trends grow, businesses need to respond. Agility is critical in meeting the changing travel, work and logistic patterns across the UK. Digitalisation and sustainability also need to be central to any fleet strategy to help businesses stay one step ahead of the new habits and behaviours people are adopting. Now is the time for everybody to rethink their strategy and put agility at the core. Or risk being left behind, fast.

To find out more about changes to the fleet industry download Fleet Streets: Accelerating changes to travel and transport in the UK.


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Nick Brownrigg

Chief Executive, Alphabet (GB) Ltd

Nick joined Alphabet, Europe’s leading provider of Business Mobility services, in July 2016. He was previously CEO for Pre-Owned Vehicles at ALJ Group, the Middle East’s largest automotive group. Nick has significant leadership experience in the UK and international leasing industry, having previously fulfilled a number of UK, pan-European and global CEO positions for Ally Financial Inc. (previously GMAC) and Masterlease Group. He is currently Vice Chairman for the BVRLA Committee of Management, where he has served in some capacity since 2005. Nick has been a BVRLA blogger since November 2020.