Translating Mobility-as-a-Service

Ok, so we all accept that there's a whole new mobility world out there. Sharing, rental, subscription and leasing all reflect the demand shift from ownership to car usage and a future of autonomous and electric-powered vehicles will boost that theme beyond any recognition.

I'm a finance and operations guy at heart, but humble enough to respect the power of promotion and the drive to mobility-as-a-service ("MaaS") has come very much from the eCommerce universe. However, provision of a mobility service still relies on the hard realities of owning fast-depreciating assets in a hazardous environment. Shifting ownership away from the user doesn't mitigate cost, it simply transfers responsibility to the fleet manager best able to cope.

The Promising Culture of Mobility - Industry veterans will often scoff that subscription and sharing are simply rental and leasing with a new "hip" millennial name. I disagree. While the resources required to deliver are very much fleet-related, customers see mobility in a wholly different light.

As demonstrated by the leading Norwegian mobility provider imove, subscription is much less about the specific car than it is about:

  • Flexibility,

  • Simplicity and

  • Convenience.

Customers don't see themselves as buying or even leasing a car. What they see is a membership organisation more closely aligned with their mobile phone contract. This is where we start talking about the "Netflix of car usage". Promoters focus much more on customer experience than a particular vehicle's brand or price point.

From a sales point of view, this is a much different culture from car ownership. If we stretch the point, the OEM becomes merely a tier-1 supplier to a whole new retail automotive paradigm.

The Harsh Reality of Fleet Management - On the other hand, owning a car is really terrible. They're expensive and fast-depreciating. Their procurement, finance, maintenance and re-sale expose consumers and even fleet customers to crippling cost disadvantage.

By necessity, fleet managers (and leasing companies in particular) are particularly "efficiency-focussed" owing their very existence to an ability to extract profit while delivering customer value in:

  • Buying the car opportunistically

  • Financing & insuring the car with scale-based efficiency,

  • Expertly maintain & refurbish the car and

  • Maximising residual proceeds at re-sale.

These skills are not to be taken lightly and by offering cost assurance, fleet managers take on significant risk.

Translating Between Virtual and Real Worlds - In many ways, those of us promoting the expansion of mobility models are translators moderating between the "virtual" world of promotion and the "real" world of fleet management. Neither speaks the language of the other particularly well, inhibiting the design and execution of a perfected operating model.

Such model may come about through acquisition, partnership or some other business combination that compliments effective promotion with efficient vehicle supply in a robust operating environment. It's hard to imagine that Cazoo, Onto, Bipi, imove, or any other of the myriad European subscription providers have yet brought together cost-effective and efficient promotional, operational and fleet-related resources in such a way as to definitively offer mobility on a value basis.

The resources are out there in some combination of OEMs, leasing companies, daily rental concerns, franchised dealer networks, eCommerce startups and others.

Many are out there trying to prove a variety of operating concepts. They simply haven't yet come together in the best way possible.