This summer, Mike Albert Fleet Solutions hired its first-ever government fleet team. The company provides full-service fleet management solutions, and until now was focused mainly on commercial fleets.
Bob Crowe and Joanne Cornier, both previously with Acme Auto Leasing, have 56 years of government fleet experience between them. Here’s how the directors of government fleet sales think Mike Albert’s new focus on government fleets will affect public fleets.
Q: What does Mike Albert getting into the government space mean for government fleet managers?
Cornier: We can now offer a suite of fleet management services to government teams that they haven’t had available to them before. For example, telematics, fuel cards, maintenance management, and more.
Crowe: In our past working with the small leasing companies, it's been we either lease or we finance. That was our only focus, was getting them involved in a vehicle. Now we have so many more products. We can offer maintenance programs, we can offer telematics, we've got different purchase programs, different finance and lease programs. It broadens our products that are available to the customer.
What Joanne and I would try and do with some of our previous government customers was get them to just pay for [the maintenance] they used as they went because it was less expensive than a flat fee. And that's pretty much the way Mike Albert handles it now. You pay for it, we’ll bill you, we’ll monitor it, we’ll control it and manage it for you, and then send you a bill each month for what you used. Plus, our clients can take advantage of discounted prices and a team of ASE Blue Seal certified technicians that help keep maintenance costs down. It's a lot less expensive.
Q: Some fleet managers don’t view fleet management companies positively. What would you say to them?
Crowe: I think their attitude as to us is as a competitor. We are not a competitor. So when we're talking to them, [we tell them] there are products that they need that they just haven't had available because of their own financial resources. The telematics, the gas cards, the maintenance programs, it's stuff that they haven't had available to them in the past. We're here to assist them and give them more product and availability, not to ever replace them. They have more knowledge about the way that city runs — and their fleet runs — than we'll ever have. We're another tool in their tool belt.
Q: What kinds of vehicles can they lease?
Cornier: Anything they want — from electric vehicles to sedans to construction equipment.
Crowe: From our past lives, there was nobody that understood trucks and fire trucks and the heavy equipment, so nobody understood how to put together residuals and bring them out over a period of years. Where we are now at Mike Albert, they actually have a truck division, guys who have hundreds of years of experience combined. So they can handle the big trucks and equipment, and they can do excavators.
Q: What’s the biggest pushback you face when you approach an agency about leasing?
Cornier: It varies for different agencies. Some of them are just old-fashioned and don't believe in it. Leasing used to be a bad word; they don' t understand that leasing is best practice for funding a fleet. It’s not the same as funding a personal vehicle. Often they see "interest" and think they're paying too much money when they are actually paying less for vehicles while it’s in use.
Crowe: With interest rate, they look at it and say, "Well, why would I pay any interest when I can just go purchase the vehicles?" But yet they'll spend hundreds of thousands of dollars fixing other vehicles. Mike Albert uses a matched depreciation strategy so our clients pay less. With the right lease strategy, they could have replaced those vehicles, reduced their out-of-pocket expenses enough to add additional vehicles, and not had the maintenance costs.
Q: What have you been doing as Mike Albert’s first government fleet team?
Cornier: We’re attending events and joining associations, doing a lot of face-to-face, trying to get onto co-ops. GSA is something we’re diligently working on.
Crowe: And as state contracts open up, we’ll go after those as well.