DETROIT - Fleet contracts are going global.
North American fleet customers find they can save money and reduce the complexity of overseas fleet purchases by choosing a single automaker as their global fleet supplier.
A European version of the trend is that fleet sales are handled by automakers on a European level, whether the customer is buying from a single source or not.
Not every customer agrees that the benefits are worth upsetting their employees in other countries. For an international company, buying or leasing fleet vehicles can be complicated and confusing. Every country has its own way of registering and taxing vehicles. Automakers have different methods of selling and distributing vehicles in different countries.
'Some (customers) are going into countries where they don't even know who to talk to,' said Jim McCallum, director of commercial and government fleet sales for GM's North American Operations.
'There are a lot of companies that are taking a step back and saying, 'There's got to be a better way,'' McCallum added.
In recent years, GM and Ford have introduced multi-year global fleet contracts.
Both companies have added personnel. Two years ago, Ford named Michele De Veaux to the new position of global business development manager for North American fleet operations. About the same time, GM formed a board of directors to handle global fleet sales.
A global fleet contract lets a customer streamline its operations and cut waste, according to De Veaux.
International companies like IBM typically have employees throughout the world making separate fleet decisions country-by-country. Without a global fleet contract, a customer in Europe might use as many as 24 vehicle suppliers.
Waste reduction combined with a global volume discount can save customers money. Neither De Veaux nor McCallum would estimate how much, but Xerox Corp. projects it can cut its fleet costs by as much as 15 percent by signing a global fleet contract with Ford or GM.
'Eventually the opportunity is large enough it outweighs the risk,' said Bob Brown, manager of Xerox's global fleet of 25,000 vehicles.
The primary risk is alienating employees overseas by taking away their ability to make fleet decisions. For example, a French manager might not appreciate being told by the head office in the USA that he must trade in his Renaults for Fords.
'That seems to be the major stumbling block,' said De Veaux. 'You have to have one person who has the purchasing authority to make the decision.'