Interview: rental as seen by J-C Zanon of Leaseplan

Having successfully held the positions of Regional Sales Director and Partnership Director, Jean-Claude ZANON is currently Purchasing Director (excluding production) for LeasePlan*, the world leader in long-term rental.

With more than 20 years’ experience in the Car Rental world, Jean-Claude presents us with his analysis of current developments in the rental market and more globally what resembles an ever-increasing cultural revolution, that is to say new forms of mobility.

* LeasePlan is an international company of Dutch origin specialized in the management of car fleets and driver mobility. LeasePlan, established in 1963, has become the world leader in the management of automobile fleets with more than 1.55 million vehicles on the road in 32 countries with 7,000 employees.

[Opteven Lab’]: We’ve noticed a definite increase in Rental contracts (Lease-to-own & long term rental) amongst private paying individuals over the last few years and more specifically in France. How can you explain this progression?

[JC ZANON]: We are clearly witnessing amongst the new generation in particular a drop in vehicle ownership in favour of an acceptance just using the car. The most notable factor is in all the manufacturers advertising, is the notion of monthly rental as opposed to a catalogue price. We’re tempted to say that a car now represents a rental fee, «rental is synonymous with having a car».

This trend is very popular amongst new generations, who are less concerned about owning their own car as this incurs costs. This generation wants to pay for what they use and this is why leasing is such an attractive solution for them.

[OL’]: So who stands to gain most? The client or car professionals?

[JCZ]: Effectively, rental is an excellent way to reduce the duration of ownership of vehicles to increase the frequency of when people change their vehicle and therefore generate more sales. Manufacturers and distributors have understood this very well. Added to this is the opportunity to comunicate on the rental price, which is more attractive than the sales price and it includes a selection of services. By placing the sales pitch onto the advantage of the client you can get around the notion of discount and maintain the distributors’ margins.

But it’s not only about marketing packages. Clients know that rental is not less expensive than a classical purchase but it enables them to better manage their costs. Paying a monthly rental is a real trend in every field. The convergence of interests between the strategy of professionals and client demand explains the rapid increase in rental offers.

[OL’]: However, France remains a «small» market compared to the U.S, to China or other developing countries. Shouldn’t we be drawing inspiration from what’s happening over there?

[JCZ]: No, to my knowledge no innovative services exist in these countries or either we don’t know about these services and/or they have already been tested out here. The concept of financial rental, the digital approach, unexpected key players like institutional data management, and original elements with elaborated solutions like UBER came from the U.S. We can see an «uberization» of the maintenance of vehicles (service, repair work…). This is where we will be finding innovative services that haven’t been seen before, that will come to France in the short term.

«Right now, the American market is driven by an«Uberization» of the economy»


[OL’]: Do you think that France (and more globally Europe), will always be a little behind the States?

[JCZ]: Yes, the U.S.A has always been a step ahead, as far as equipment and services are concerned. That’s always been the case!

Developing countries catch up but more as far as equipment is concerned. Some countries offer alternative solutions but globally everyone is looking towards the U.S.A. Right now, the American market is driven by the «Uberization» of the economy, and not just for the transport of people. Uber has inspired a new model of consumerism and has shaken up the classical sales scheme. The notion of service has been pushed to its extreme and we must prepare ourselves for this transformation.


[OL’]: The automobile industry is really changing, eco-responsibility, digital, the economy of sharing, the development of new key players such as BlaBlacar, Uber, Ouicar… how can a world leader of long-term rental position itself in relation to those changes?

[JCZ]: We are experts in the management of means of transport and more specifically the car. We must become experts in the management of the transport of means. The means are men and women who work in our client companies and those who, on an individual level need to travel with a car or not.

«We are experts in the management of means of transport … we must become experts in the management of the transport of means …»

[OL’]: Could we imagine a service offer from Leaseplan without a car?

[JCZ]: Yes, of course. The car is only one means amongst others to get around. Our job is to provide mobility solutions for professionals. We should now start to think about global management for people between their professional life during the day, their personal life in the evening, the week-end or on holiday. We need to go towards a global solution.

[OL’]: Manufacturers sign partnerships with new key players in mobility: GM and VW with competitors of Uber, Toyota France with car sharing, etc.… is this the kind of partnership that could make sense for LeasePlan?

[JCZ]: We have signed agreements with manufacturers or recognized key players in mobility. With the former we have helped them put into place a particular mobility solution, for the latter to help them in their sourcing of vehicles if auto mobility is a solution that they are promoting. The confidentiality agreements don’t allow us to say anymore on the subject and it’s already a reality for us. The automobile tends to be included more in a global offer and multi-modal form of mobility. At LeasePlan, we have understood this well. We are working on the integration of new services to our traditional offers such as car sharing, car pooling and even auto mobility in Tourist Vehicles with a chauffeur.

[NDLR: LeasePlan has started a diversification phase on their product offer by multiplying the transport means. The company focuses on the mobility of key players and less on vehicle management.]

 [OL’]: We are in 2030: in your opinion will we continue buying our own car, to pay for petrol and to call for assistance in case of a problem?

[JCZ]: I would like to predict that purchasing will be exceptional in comparison to usage, in all its forms. I am ready to bet that electric and hybrid have put the spanners in the works on pure fossil energy. And assistance will still be necessary even if the vehicle doesn’t have a driver and that it’s autonomous. The vehicle will be able to take care of the passengers that it transports. The future will be in the predictive services, new tools that will be able to anticipate the driver’s needs.


«In fact, the Mobility Guarantee, is a natural convergence of our businesses»


 [OL’]You have known Opteven for several years. What are the major impacts on this mobility revolution on the services that we provide? And specifically in assistance? In your opinion what are the challenges of the future?

[JCZ]: Opteven has a certain role to play as a major key player in mobility. Opteven is and must be the one who, in any circumstances assists during a journey, a holiday trip, a business trip. It’s amongst the solutions that Opteven can bring that changes can be made. A vehicle driven by one person or a self-driving car for an individual will not be systematically replaced with something identical. A full panel of classical or original possibilities can be provided and must be managed to carry on the journey or a trip that’s had to be stopped due to an accident or a problem …

I think that Opteven can bring its expertise into the management of what is set out in the contract. Each trip takes place with rules, a price, a process and modalities that are well defined. Opteven can be the operator that can be the guardian of the temple in this area, the operator that guarantees that the transported person gets to their destination according to all the conditions set out in their contract.

[OL’]: So would that make Opteven the Logistics manager of mobility?

[JCZ]: Exactly! I would go as far as saying, the guarantor of mobility. In fact, the Mobility Guarantee is a natural convergence of our businesses.