Founded in the early 1960s in the land of tulips, canals, windmills and bicycles, leasing and fleet management firm LeasePlan has mushroomed into the world’s largest player and now enjoys a presence in 32 countries served by over 6,500 employees and represented by brokers including Vehicle Consulting. This year has seen LeasePlan dominate automotive headlines and steam forward with Duracell Bunny-like determination, with new products and solutions, green initiatives and collaborations coming thick and fast.

First up, LeasePlan launched a brand platform called CarNext through which it sells ex-lease cars directly to the public via a website and also bricks and mortar delivery stores nearby larger cities, enabling customers to test-drive cars and seek advice. A brief scour of the site reveals used lease car examples such as a 2015 Audi A7 3.0 TDI Ultra Exec with 63,644 miles on the clock for £18,062 and even nuggets like a 2015 BMW i8 with 26,719 miles for £52,848. Cars are sold for a fixed price with just one former corporate owner, in great cosmetic condition along with FSH and a warranty, while a 14-day money-back guarantee offers added peace of mind. Cars leased on contract hire do tend to live pampered lives after all, with customers keeping within their annual mileage ceilings and trying their damndest not to incur any de-hire damage fees. A spin-off for the B2B sector called CarNext Marketplace is also up and running, open to eligible professional traders.

Around the same time, in spring 2018, LeasePlan USA announced a partnership with America’s fastest-growing ride-hailing company, Lyft, to offer corporate customers an integrated mobility service focussed on flexibility and convenience while underpinned by data. Company car fleet drivers will be able to, for instance, book Lyft rides when their vehicles are in for repair, but without any of the usual expense-reporting hassle to gripe over. Incorporating ride-hailing under LeasePlan USA’s wings enables fleets to keep a better control over their budgets and end-to-end mobility plans. Lyft recently announced a carbon offset strategy meaning that hailed rides will be carbon neutral, and LeasePlan USA now considers itself to be a mobility hub.

For people who would otherwise drool at the prospect of leasing a shiny new car but aren’t sure about the ‘initial rental’ aspect that is basically a non-refundable deposit, or having to typically agree to a fixed term of 2-to-4 years, LeasePlan has introduced Subscribe & Drive. No deposit is required and the minimum contract length is just three months, after which a customer can hand the keys back with a month’s notice. What’s more, cars can be swapped and upgraded or downgraded at any time, enabling someone to sample a variety of different models and match one to their changing circumstances. Road tax, insurance, breakdown cover, maintenance and even tyre wear and tear are all included, but admittedly £438 (including VAT) for a Golf GTD limited to 8,400 miles a year may feel a bit pricey to some.

With the short-term goal of increasing the uptake of zero emissions electric cars and the long-term aim of seriously cleaning up the environment, LeasePlan has just co-founded a coalition called the Zero Emission Vehicle (ZEV) Challenge. Tex Gunning, LeasePlan’s CEO, quite rightly commented: “Although we’re seeing the appetite for EVs rise every day, the vehicles, infrastructure or policies to meet this demand aren’t there yet.” The group, led by The Climate Group, includes plenty of what Donald Trump would describe as “‘uge names” like EDF Energy and Unilever along with entire cities including Paris and Milan, and will basically push governments and other bodies to speed up everything surrounding electric vehicles.

Although the UK won’t get a bite at it just yet, LeasePlan has also freshly announced that it has teamed up with charging infrastructure provider Allego in various European countries in a deal that will see drivers of LeasePlan cars enjoy access to the latter’s network of chargers, along with financial support when it comes to home and office installation. Customers in France, Germany, Norway, Portugal and Sweden will benefit from charge points installed by Allego and will be able to use the network’s advanced EV cloud platform. With over 65,000 electric car charging points throughout Europe, Allego’s fancy selling point is that it’s just started introducing liquid-cooled chargers of up to 350 kW as part of the Mega-E project in Europe.

LeasePlan is definitely not letting the grass grow under its feet, keenly embracing the latest mobility models from car-sharing and driverless technology to Car-as-a-Service (CaaS) subscription packages, and the ‘What’s Next?’ section of its website displays flying vehicles – which definitely appeal at a time when many of the UK’s motorways are submerged under 50mph smart motorway upgrade zones. M6 in Cheshire, anyone?

It’s worth noting that ‘just add fuel’-type bundles similar to Subscribe & Drive from LeasePlan can sometimes be organised by Vehicle Consulting, as can conventional lease deals arranged over a short term with no initial rental. It really can reap rewards picking up the phone or getting in touch by email and just asking the question.