Northgate Vehicle Hire’s new UK managing director Eddie Aston is looking to deliver growth of up to 10% from its current on-hire fleet of 50,000 vehicles and to expand into new areas, with software and telematics services.
The LCV hire specialist appointed Aston at the start of April from security firm G4S, where he was global chief operating officer. Aston previously worked as a divisional chief executive for DHL.
The appointment is the first in a raft of new hires for the Northgate management team as it looks to ramp up growth plans. Karen Whittingham has joined as marketing director and the company is in the process of confirming a new sales director and operating director.
Aston told Commercial Fleet that the company is moving into a growth stage after spending time consolidating its business, following the acquisition of 14 new businesses in the London area in the past two years.
The company now has 77 branches across the UK and Aston isn’t looking to add new branches, instead focusing on getting more from the current network.
He said: “We may look at opening smaller satellite sites opening in locations in the UK, but we need to be making the most of the network we already have in place.
“The capacity is there to grow to the level we want without opening more branches.”
Aston wouldn’t put a timeframe on the 10% growth, expecting between 3% and 4% growth this year, but said it is the goal the company is working towards.
Northgate has just finished its One Northgate corporate programme which concentrated on bringing together the company’s many acquisitions under one banner, with consistent management processes and one way of working.
Aston said One Northgate has now been put to bed and the next step is growth. SMEs and outright purchase customers are the target.
Aston agreed that customer views on vehicle ownership is changing, with the retail industry now focused around monthly payments and not necessarily owning something at the end of the deal.
He said: “With the LCV sector, the nature of the business can change quite rapidly. Using rental means you can be quite flexible with what you need and you’re not tied into a purchase or long lease arrangement.
“A huge amount of time and effort has been put into taking a step back and looking at our cost and service proposition.”
Part of Northgate’s plans to get closer to SMEs will be to build a bigger sales team with a focus on the needs of smaller businesses comprising fleets of between one and five vehicles.
The company also trialled out-of-hours servicing and MOTs in 10 of its branches last year and it was successful enough for it to continue at those sites.
It won’t be rolled out nationally, but Aston said it can be added to sites where there is a customer need. As the business scales up, so can the out-of-hours servicing.
While Northgate’s flexible rental offering, with inclusive servicing, will remain its core offering, Aston wants to expand the products and services it can deliver.
Work is already underway on a new online customer portal that will let businesses manage their rental and line-up with the other services Northgate is developing. This includes a new white-label telematics system offering which is already on trial with 15,000 vehicles. While Aston said it is an off-the-shelf approach, Northgate will be expanding the offering to provide more management information to customers.
Aston said final details on exactly what the telematics offering will be are still being worked out as the trial gathers research from the market and customer feedback.
He wouldn’t put a date on launch but said the fact a trial with 30% of its fleet is already in place gives an indication of how far along Northgate is in the process.
Aston said: “The telematics market is developing very quickly with what can be offered and we want to make sure we come to market with the right proposition.
“We’re currently in the middle of working out how telematics will be offered with flexible rental and whether it will be offered as part of that package or separately.”