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“It’s not just about being a provider, but also a partner”

Interview with Fer Derwort – European Fleet Manager, Infor

1,500 company car drivers across all of Europe, different tax laws, the most diverse user preferences: as a fleet manager for the software provider Infor, Fer Derwort already has his hands full. Now the company is converting his fleet to electric mobility. He explains in this interview why the effort is worthwhile.

Mr Derwort, you are responsible for the European fleet of Infor, but you do not work in procurement – as would typically be the case – rather in Human Resources. How is that?

In our company, the vehicles are viewed as a benefit, so part of employee remuneration. I am responsible for the international car policy and therefore decide which vehicles will be available to employees for selection. This also includes the drive type. In the past, the choice was limited to petrol or diesel, now we are moving to electric vehicles – and specifically those from the Volkswagen Group.

Why did you decide to switch to electric vehicles?

We primarily made the decision for financial reasons. When I took over responsibility for our fleet more than ten years ago, it became apparent that our existing fleet would become more expensive – keyword CO₂ emissions. I therefore switched over at that time to vehicles with lower emission values. The expectation now is that, in comparison with conventional drives, electric cars will pay off in the medium term. I only recently did a calculation for our fleet in Belgium. The result: owing to tax changes and taking account of running costs, we will already have reached the break-even point by 2023 for a vehicle added to the fleet today.

“With the Volkswagen Group, I have found a single source supplier with just a single contact for all of Europe, with whom I can discuss my requirements and make plans.”

Fer Derwort European Fleet Manager, Infor

Is there a specific plan for when the fleet will become all-electric?

Yes and no. The plan was to only offer employees electric vehicles by the end of 2021. We felt that the key to successfully achieving this was a good charging infrastructure. And the required infrastructure had already been established at a number of European sites, with more countries set to follow. Then the situation changed with COVID-19. Pandemic restrictions meant that employees worked from home – it was not obvious when and in what numbers they would return to the office. This also called into question whether we could continue to work on the assumption of our original infrastructure plan. Combined with the issues surrounding semiconductors, this is now leading to delays.

How many vehicles are involved?

Some 1,500 drivers are entitled to company cars at Infor in Europe. They can either choose from the vehicles we have identified in the Group portfolio – or they can claim a cash allowance. In the second case also, however, the company cars have to meet certain requirements and comply with our car policy. For example, our fleet does not include coupés or convertibles.

What prompted the decision in favour of Volkswagen Group models?

There are a number of reasons for this. First of all, we need a very broad range of vehicle models. Volkswagen and Audi – and the other Group brands – offer a number of vehicles for each level in our tiered system, from the Volkswagen up! to the Audi A8 L, from SUVs to estates to saloons … in other words I have a single source supplier with a single contact for all of Europe, with whom I can discuss my requirements and make plans. There is just a single leasing company for everything: Volkswagen Financial Services AG. I therefore communicate with just two people for all countries within my area of responsibility. Over the eleven years of the collaboration, we have been able to jointly overcome all challenges that have arisen. For me, it’s not just about being a provider, but also a true partner.

“Every conversion, every change costs money. We know this – and have factored it into our calculations. But the investment pays off in a very short space of time.”

Fer Derwort European Fleet Manager, Infor

As you mentioned, the infrastructure is an important factor when converting the fleet to electric mobility. However, establishing this completely new ecosystem represents a considerable investment... Why is that still worthwhile for you?

Every conversion, every change costs money. We know this – and have factored it into our calculations. The example given above from Belgium shows that the investment pays off in a very short space of time.

What do the company car users say about the all-electric vehicles?

One colleague recently drove from the Netherlands to Croatia in his electric vehicle, while another drove to Switzerland. Both found that even such a long journey was very relaxing – even the charging breaks. And while charging breaks need to be planned for, an appropriate app is available that shows the different options. The many assist systems also make the journey comfortable.

And what about the experiences on the administration side?

It makes no difference as regards administration. It’s just a matter of billing electricity as opposed to fuel. The only difference is the fiscal treatment – between the individual countries too.

What tip would you give colleagues in other companies who are considering converting their fleets to electric mobility?

My most important tip – as already mentioned – relates to the charging infrastructure. It has to be properly planned. It has proven worthwhile for us that the users can charge their vehicles 80% at home or at the office. We then charge the remaining 20% at public charging stations during the journey, either in the city or on the motorway. This is the most efficient ratio for us.

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Status: 28. January 2022

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