COVERING ALL THE BASES

Abu Dhabi 2019 | TRANSPORT | INTERVIEW

TBY talks to Saed Arar, Chairman of LeasePlan Emirates, on specializing in operating leases, partnering with ride-hailing companies, and catering to the UAE's youth through technology.

Saed Arar
BIOGRAPHY
Saed Arar is Chairman of the Board of LeasePlan Emirates Fleet Management – LeasePlan Emirates LLC. He is also Director of Alternative Investment & Infrastructure Platform, Mubadala Investment Company currently and COO of Aabar Investments PJS. In addition, he is Chairman of Dunia Finance L.L.C, Chairman of Abu Dhabi Finance, and Independent Chairman of Oldendorff Carriers Transshipment L.L.C. Arar has a bachelor’s degree in science and business management from the Lebanese American University and is alumni of Harvard Business School.

What have been the major developments and trends in Abu Dhabi and the UAE that the automobile leasing industry needs to keep an eye on?

Many public and private companies are becoming more financially savvy, making sure their financial returns are well reflected in their year-end results. Thus, the decision to switch their fleets to leasing and external management is becoming smoother. We see both private and public-sector entities moving away from ownership of vehicles to operating leases as it helps them to budget and control their costs more efficiently. LeasePlan Emirates was one of the first players to introduce and specialize in operating leases in the UAE. We see continuous growth in the leasing market. Notably, there is significant demand from multinationals operating locally, who were already used to leasing in other countries. In addition, government entities in the UAE are increasingly opting for leasing. Recently, SMEs are also understanding how leasing could be beneficial. Equally important, even in an economic downturn, the nature of the leasing business model remains resilient because of the long-term nature of the product.

How and where is technology having an impact in the automobile leasing and fleet management industry?

Technological breakthroughs impact businesses around the globe, and the leasing and fleet management industry is no exception. In our case, LeasePlan Corp in the Netherlands invests heavily in creating and improving the technology available to our staff, as well as to our customers. New digital products plus applications are introduced across all countries on a continuous basis. This provides LeasePlan Emirates with the backbone infrastructure, systems, and organizational processes which enable us to provide easy-to-use, cost-efficient solutions, such as tracking the performance of their fleets on a number of key metrics in close to real time. Furthermore, LeasePlan Emirates invests heavily in its presence on social media platforms to promote the LeasePlan brand and product portfolio.

Can you expand on the strategy behind the entrance in the B2C segment, and how do you consider the preferences of the younger generations?

Recently, LeasePlan launched an operating lease product for individuals. The market for used cars has been volatile in recent years, and people have not been able to resell their vehicles according to their expected prices, especially if they are in a hurry to sell. Leasing removes such a risk, and its total costs are competitive compared to ownership costs. The UAE's youth is made up of digital natives, expecting businesses to provide them with the tools to make informed decisions. One example of how LeasePlan is catering to their needs is through its mobile app, which allows customers to manage vehicle information, book maintenance appointments, and communicate with our staff. Companies such as Uber or Careem should not scare the auto-leasing industry; we should look at opportunities to collaborate. LeasePlan, for example, has a successful collaboration with Uber in several European countries.

Will environmental regulations force readjustments in the auto industry?

According to various studies on the prospects of electric cars and autonomous driving, the US market will have 60% driverless cars by 2030. I would not be surprised if the UAE is one of the early countries to follow, not only from an infrastructure perspective but also from a regulatory one. For example, Tesla disrupted the car market with electric cars, and it will be interesting to see how the market adjusts when other companies do the same.

What is LeasePlan Emirates' competitive advantage?

One of the important strengths of LeasePlan Emirates is that we are brand independent, so we can offer multiple brands whereas most of our competitors are aligned with one brand or another. In the UAE, Japanese brands such as Toyota, Nissan, and Mitsubishi are the most popular. However, we do have clients who would like to have a mix, including European and US-based brands in their fleets.