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BusinessCar Awards 2014 - Service Supplier of the Year: Alphabet

Date: 28 January 2014

It's been another big year for Alphabet. Having absorbed the extra volume that came with a £570m deal to acquire ING Car Lease, which was completed in October 2011 and which doubled the firm's size, propelling it into the top three leasing firms behind Lex Autolease and Leaseplan in 2013, the company decided against a quiet year of consolidation and launched a new electric vehicle programme, among other things.

By the end of the year, Alphabet's total vehicle fleet had increased by more than 10,000 and climbed beyond 120,000 units, around 15,000 units behind Leaseplan in second spot and 35,000 in front of fourth-placed ALD Automotive. Customers include Amey, the BBC, McDonald's, Oracle and Shell.

Late in 2012, a series of wins in the public sector saw the firm grow its public sector fleet share by 5%, including deals with Yorkshire Ambulance Service, Kent County Council and Suffolk County Council.

The BMW-owned leasing firm has retained the BusinessCar Service Supplier of the Year Award it collected last year, and being voted top service supplier again for 2014 is a victory that shows how seriously the industry is taking this new, larger Alphabet.

More significant in the longer term is the launch of the Alpha Electric programme, which has seen Alphabet take the lead in terms of leasing companies helping fleets adopt the new technology of electric vehicles, complementing the existing Alpha City car-sharing scheme launched a year earlier.

Alphabet chief executive Richard Schooling told BusinessCar at the October launch of Alpha Electric that the scheme is about helping fleets that are unsure of whether to delve into electric technology.

"It's not about those guys who say they want an electric car, it's about people who say they don't know if they want one," he said.

The programme covers fleet analysis, vehicle selection, charging solutions and mobility services, and Alphabet is pitching itself as a partner rather than vehicle supplier.

Initiatives include the Discovery and Comfort packages, with the former allowing fleets to lease a vehicle for three or six months on a 'try-before-you-buy' understanding, and they can have a £500 discount off the lease cost if they then sign-up for a longer term.

Comfort is the opposite, giving fleets the security of swapping an electric vehicle for a conventional diesel after half a year if they feel it's not working out as hoped.

But despite this move, Alphabet is very focused on its mainstream operation, and in September signed a three-year extension deal to continue using Epyx's 1Link platforms for servicing, disposal and vehicle licencing.

Highly Commended

ALD Automotive

ALD Automotive logoVoted Highly Commended in the service supplier category was ALD Automotive, the UK's number four leasing firm.

Carving a niche for itself in white label provision of leasing supply for manufacturers including Ford, Vauxhall, Kia, Hyundai and Mazda, the company had a change of leadership this year when longstanding boss Keith Allen joined ARI Fleet, being replaced by Mel Dawson, who has been with ALD since 2005.

ALD Automotive climbed into fourth place in the leasing company league table last year, a few hundred cars ahead of Arval, after increasing the size of its vehicle fleet by 6000 units.