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ING chases European growth

Date: 30 July 2008

Tilbrook: "By the end of this year we should confirm immediate expansion in greater Europe"

Ian Tilbrook, managing director at ING Car Lease, speaks to Hugh Hunston about the company's domestic expansion and plans for landing more business across Europe

Firmly established in the top 10 leasing league - due to its purchase of Appleyard in 2006 - ING Car Lease is plotting its future by consolidating UK public sector business and developing its pan-European interests.

That's the message from Ian Tilbrook, the company's candid and pragmatic managing director, who orchestrated Appleyard's takeover and oversees a fleet approaching 50,000 vehicles.

Claiming the merged operation between Appleyard's Leeds and ING's Bracknell head offices has fused into "one brand and one culture", Tilbrook conceded that unifying two business systems had been "challenging and not always sweetness and light", but pointed to "enhanced economies of scale, a significantly larger turnover and a longer reach into the market".

Public sector

Public sector vehicles now account for 25% of ING's fleet in a market area that, according to Tilbrook, is "more resilient, stable and more immune from economic instability and financial problems. This business is less volatile than the corporate market".

Overall, he accepted the current economic downturn was giving customers "a bumpy ride" but public services had to be maintained and vehicles provided.

Tilbrook added: "We have a dedicated public service unit and are investing in a system infrastructure to support it. There are obvious cost pressures which are manifested in fleet management support."

On the Continent

The company is also pursuing more pan-European deals. Currently, an international sales account management and marketing unit in Amsterdam services European customers, but Tilbrook hinted at expansion into burgeoning central and eastern European markets.

He said: "We have organised ourselves in a more harmonised, joined-up way, which includes a successful Polish presence. By the end of this year we should confirm immediate expansion in Europe."

Home issues

Turning to domestic issues ING's MD said the jury was still out on revised CO2-related capital allowances, due to come into force next April.

He said: "Obviously there will be increased leasing costs for vehicles above 160g/km and the expectation is that customers will be asked to bear those additional costs. We need to know how the cars will be identified for qualification - by registration date or year date? And will current cars worth over £12k come into the pool?"

Tilbrook, who runs a Lexus RX400h hybrid, revealed the majority of ING's fleet consists of sub-160g/km cars. There has also been a significant growth in sub-120g/km models on the company's books, due particularly to public sector influence. He singled out BMW's Efficient Dynamics approach to greater fuel economy and lower emissions as "superb and equal to hybrids in its everyday effectiveness".

Corporate manslaughter legislation has provided ING with a commercial opportunity as well as a challenge according to Tilbrook, who said the firm's Risk Assist risk management product, is "one of the most sought-after services in our portfolio. It forms a major part of account revenues."

Around 40% of customers adopt some element of the plan, although Tilbrook admitted there was an enduring "tick the box tokenism" attitude among some executives and fleet managers.

He said: "It needs to become part of corporate culture and psyche. It relates to this business in its entirety and is increasingly included in new business tenders. It is firmly on the agenda."

Tilbrook described current legislation as "not particularly Draconian nor particularly difficult or unreasonable. I think it has probably gone far enough. There have been some significant fines for non-compliance, which focus the mind."