By Peter Johnstone, Richard Irvine-Brown, Sebastian Clark and Grant Collinson

A weekly round-up of fleet news from Europe and the UK, featuring Leaseplan’s Austrian acquisition, CV registrations in Europe, Renault’s domestic result, Sofico’s deals in Portugal and Australia, Tesco’s Northern Ireland tractor units, Virgin’s choice, Mazda CX5 corporate RVs, Toyota and Citroën deals, Ebbon-Dacs’ offer and BVRLA’s attempt to increase recruitment.

Leaseplan acquires BAWAG

Leaseplan has moved into the Austrian SME fleet sector with the acquisition of BAWAG P.S.K. Fuhrparkleasing.

The fleet and vehicle management company has acquired 100% of BAWAG’s shares and 6,500 cars.

Nigel Storny, managing director at LeasePlan Austria, said: "We see the transaction as an excellent strategic fit and we are looking forward to welcoming our new colleagues."

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The acquisition follows Leaseplan’s announcement that it has bought back the entire $500m (€368m) government guaranteed bond issued last December, which was due to mature in June 2014, meaning the company has now repaid 85% of its government guaranteed funding.

European CV sales decline further

Commercial vehicle (CV) registrations across Europe were down by 5.5% year-on-year for the first eight months of 2013, and down by 4.4% in August, according to the ACEA (European Automobile Manufacturers’ Association).

Of the five major markets in Europe, those to record total CV registrations of at least 50,000, the UK was the only one to post year-on-year growth, up by 15.3% for August to 13,682 registrations and by 6.7% for the year-to-August to 192,606 registrations. Two markets of notable growth were Bulgaria, up 26.8% to 2,243 registrations for the year-to-August, and Estonia, up 30.8% to 2,449 registrations.

Light commercial vehicles (under 3.5t) were down 5.1% for August to 76,576 registrations, and down 4.8% for the year-to-August to 873,590 registrations. Of the five major markets, only two were up for the year-to-date and the month of August: the UK was up 9.4% for the first eight months to 161,938 registrations and up 11.1% in August to 10,344 registrations, while Spain was up 1.7% to 54,677 registrations for the first eight months and up 13.0% in August to 5,207 registrations. Again, Estonia made a significant gain, up 36.0% to 1,850 registrations year-to-date and up 32.7% to 215 registrations for the month.

August registrations of heavy commercial vehicles (HCVs) gained 0.5% year-on-year to 13,986 units but dropped 8.1% to 132,896 registrations for the first eight months of the year, during which time France and Germany, the two largest markets for over-16t machines, each fell more than 10%. Poland now appears cemented as the fourth largest market in Europe for HCVs, with more than 9,000 registrations in the January-August period of both 2012 and 2013.

Medium-heavy (over 3.5t) registrations were down 2.0% in August to 18,649 units, and down 8.6% to 176,188 units for the first eight months. Again, France and Germany, the two largest markets were down by more than 10% year-to-August, and again, Poland was the fourth largest market, with more than 10,000 registrations since the start of the year for the second year running.

Bus and coach registrations climbed 1.8% in August to 3,075 units but dropped 5.1% to 20,281 units since the start of the year.

Renault CVs stable in September

Light commercial vehicle (LCV) registrations for the Renault Group in France gained 0.3% year-on-year in September to 11,138 units split between 10,827 Renaults (down 1.4%) and 311 Dacias (no comparable figure for 2012). September LCV market share for the Group was 38.2%, a gain of 1.2 ppts on September 2012.

Year-to-September, however, LCV registrations for the Group in its domestic market dropped 13.0% to 84,475 units; Renault brand LCVs dropped 13.1% to 81,570 units, while Dacia LCVs dropped 10.3% to 2,905 units.

Year-to-date LCV market share for the Group was 31.6%, down 2.2 ppts; Renault held 30.6%, down 2.1 ppts on the first nine months of 2012, while Dacia was unchanged at 1.1%.

Sofico’s new software puts in the Miles

Two more leasing companies have implemented Sofico’s Miles fleet management software.

Athlon Car Lease Portugal introduced the programme across a period of four months following trials earlier this year in Spain and Italy, and prior to international roll-out over the next two years, while Australian firm McMillan Shakespeare switched to Miles from Sofico’s previous Leasebase software.

Jan Bouckaert, head of business development at Sofico, said: "These two new successful implementations show the real benefit of the Miles pre-configured Reference Implementation setup, which not only reflects common processes and best practices within the leasing and fleet management industry but is also highly configurable and flexible".

Tesco Northern Ireland acquires tractor units

28 new Volvo FM tractor units have been delivered to Tesco for operation out of the supermarket chain’s Belfast and Antrim Distribution Centres. The tractors were supplied by local Volvo Truck & Bus Dealer, Dennison Commercials Ltd. Tesco is due to take delivery of a further nine Volvo FM trucks before December 2013.

The new tractor units bring Tesco’s Northern Ireland fleet to a total of 35 trucks and 115 trailers. Tesco’s combined UK and Ireland fleet comprises 1,800 tractor units and 4,000 trailers.

Regional engineer for Tesco distribution John Larosa said the strong Volvo network in Northern Ireland, coupled with Dennison’s ability to provide a complete repair and maintenance solution for both trucks and trailers, would mean the Tesco fleet could operate with minimal downtime.

The tractors’ fuel efficiency proved an important factor in Tesco’s decision. Robert Cromie, transport manager for Tesco North Ireland, explained: "The Dynafleet fuel reports proved the Volvo to be the most efficient distribution vehicle currently in the truck market for the Tesco NI operation, with over 11mpg being achieved during the local trials".

Virgin Money chooses CLM to manage fleet

Virgin Money has appointed CLM to manage the maintenance of its car and LCV fleet.

The 48 vehicle fleet comprises 43 cars used by the bank’s distribution team and car pool and five light commercial vehicles, each finished in Virgin’s red livery.

CLM’s maintenance management service, selected from a shortlist of four suppliers, will store all drivers’ mileages online, ensuring regular service intervals are completed and servicing can be booked in line with manager schedules, and will provide drivers with access to a national network of preferred garage servicing outlets.

Geoff Bagley, business and support services manager for Virgin Money, said: "We selected CLM for our fleet service, maintenance and repair work for a number of reasons. A reduction in cost was a factor, but more important was our perception of the service levels that CLM could provide, and their company culture and philosophy."

Mazda’s CX-5 sees RV boost

Mazda has reported the residual value of its CX-5 range has increased by up to £1,575 (€1,858) in the latest forecast form vehicle valuation service CAP.

At three years / 60,000 miles, vehicles in the 20-strong range of SUVs retain 38-40% of their list price which Mazda said translates as between £1,275 and £1,575 per vehicle for fleets.

Mazda said the increase, which is above the 3% overall residual value rise reported by CAP, demonstrates "strengthening demand" for the brand and it expects the value increase to boost demand further in the corporate sector.

Citroën Berlingos curry favour with Schwartz fleet

Citroën has delivered 232 Berlingo Crew vans to the UK operation of global herb and spice company Schwartz.

The vans will be peppered with extras such as air conditioning and metallic paintwork as well as upgraded telematics, adding Fleet Director real-time management to stock features such as Smartnav navigation and Trackstar stolen-vehicle tracking.

The five-seater vans were handed over to the Schwartz Retail Merchandise Team, responsible for 13 nationwide sites, by dealer Citroën London West, and will be operated on Lex Autolease two-year contract hire agreements, with maintenance, and mileages varying from 13,500 to 23,500 miles per annum.
Tracey Hoare, Schwartz field support manager, said after a two-year evaluation, the company chose the vans for features including "improved load security and increased load space to allow for seasonal peaks, lower running costs and the ability for our drivers to carry their friends and families out of hours."

Toyota leases PSA vans to own subsidiary

Toyota Material Handling UK (TMHUK) has taken delivery of 116 Toyota Proace, the first major fleet contract for the PSA-built medium-duty van.

TMHUK will use the vans as part of its 400 LCV fleet to provide sales and servicing for Toyota warehouse equipment.

The Proace is a variant of the Citroën Jumpy / Dispatch and Peugeot Expert, built to replace the Hiace in Toyota Europe’s LCV line-up.

Ebbon-Dacs and vGroup offer £4 telematics

Ebbon-Dacs and vGroup International are offering their moDrive telematics technology at less than £4 (€4.73) a vehicle a month.

The online-technology firm and the motor accessories supplier are providing the software to contract hire and leasing companies to monitor mileage, service alerts and diagnostic code information, while end-user fleets can get data on fuel consumption, driver behaviour and journey expense. There is also a "pay on demand" option for monitoring location tracking

The system uses black box hardware and transmits data from each vehicle to a hosting facility, which is then processed and made available as a consolidated report for leasing companies, and which can also be provided in dashboard form for end-users.

Robert Pilkington, managing director of the Leaselink International division of Ebbon-Dacs, said: "We believe that the technology behind telematics is well established and understood. By engineering the most efficient central processing service and layering the solution in an effective way for the fleet industry, we are able to provide a solution that offers customers what they need at a price that can be justified".

BVRLA and Jobco-op driving recruitment

The British Vehicle Rental and Leasing Association (BVRLA) has launched an online recruitment service in partnership with automotive employment company Jobco-op Automotive.

The scheme will provide access, via the BVRLA website, to Jobco-op Automotive’s blu tic recruitment platform, containing over 14,000 pre-checked CVs while employer vacancies will be placed on both and seeded on other recruitment boards.

Nora Leggett, head of member services at the BVRLA, said: "Whenever we ask members what the BVRLA can do to help their business, recruitment is regularly mentioned.

"Members have been able to advertise jobs on our website for some time, but this new service will give them the ability to recruit in a much faster, easier and more professional way, at a very cost-effective price."