• Vision of sustainable mobility for Sopadis and BDO aligned

Vision of sustainable mobility for Sopadis and BDO aligned

01 March 2022

Our federal government is clear: Belgians must drive “greener”. Business mobility - and therefore also the company car - is an important tool for achieving this goal. Sopadis’ market research also confirms this. The dealer network is part of car importer D’Ieteren and exclusively distributes all brands of the Volkswagen Group on the Antwerp-Mechelen-Brussels axis. “The average Belgian is holding firm to his or her car as the most important means of transport”, says CEO Stefan Kerckhoven. “Shared cars and bicycles are on the rise - public transport less so - but they are not blowing the car (or company car) off its pedestal.” “Green Mobility” is the way forward, but there is still a long way to go! This is a vision that Sopadis shares with BDO, its preferred partner for mergers and acquisitions.

Some 30% of the vehicles purchased by Sopadis fleet customers today are electrically powered, either 100% electric or plug-in hybrid. “The shift towards environmentally-friendly drivetrains has undeniably started,” concludes Stefan. On the one hand, driven by customers’ ambitions to organise their mobility sustainably and on the other, triggered by the fundamental fiscal adjustment from mid-2023 that is certainly a major catalyst in the trend towards fewer emissions. “Given the highly competitive offer of electric vehicles within our brands, combined with in-depth knowledge of taxation, charging infrastructure and Total Cost of Ownership (TCO) calculations, we have the greatest confidence in the future and definitely see the shift to sustainable mobility as an opportunity.”

Incubator for sustainable mobility

The ambition to make the fleet sustainable is far from new. D’Ieteren founded the start-up studio Lab Box about ten years ago. This is where innovative mobility solutions are allowed to mature. In close cooperation with this internal incubator, Sopadis offers not only a fleet but also charging infrastructure, alternative mobility solutions and shared transport. It introduced this knowledge and know-how through, among other things, participations of D’Ieteren in car sharing company Poppy, mobility app Skipr, etc., and new, own business lines, such as the charging station installer/energy manager EDI (Electric D’Ieteren) and bicycle dealer D’Ieteren Bike.

“With D’Ieteren Bike, we want to become the largest bicycle shop in Belgium,” Karl Lechat, the CEO of D’Ieteren Bike, adds. “Here we centralise import, online and offline sales and maintenance in one company. Electric bikes in particular are expected to boost sales volumes. The first step was taken with the acquisition of Goodbikes, a bicycle business next to D’Ieteren’s headquarters in Ixelles.”

In this way, Sopadis wants to put into practice every aspect of the mobility matrix. Stefan: “Up to and including reporting tools that allow our customers to monitor their own vehicle fleets and shared fleets. In other words, we are no longer just a supplier of vehicles, but have grown into mobility consultants for our professional customers.”

Performing TCO calculations

The complexity within the current architecture of a sustainable business fleet requires specialists. This is why Sopadis set up “Fleet Business Units”, staffed with fleet experts who understand today’s mobility needs, tax regulations and the challenges of electrification and greening. “The bottom line boils down to an effective TCO calculation for the entire greening process where - each time within the specificity of each company - we use assumptions that reflect reality and that result in a forecast that survives every subsequent calculation,” explains Benoît De Cannière, CFO of Sopadis. “I am still amazed at how many different parameters you have to take into account to map out the impact of greening. Financial, fiscal, social and... cultural. After all, the chances of success of a sustainable mobility plan are closely linked to the attitude and ‘employee experience’ of each individual employee. Fortunately, you can give this a positive boost with a well-founded and transparent company car policy.”

Pitfalls, thresholds & challenges

Electrification and sustainable mobility are not clear-cut issues, but require time. In some specific situations, conventional drivetrains remain the right answer to a customer’s mobility needs. “Do not invest in ‘benefit in kind’, but consider the entire TCO. An employee who does a lot of work kilometres is often even better off with a diesel car,” says Stefan from experience.

“Even within the same company, you must have the ability and courage to distinguish between subgroups where electrification can be done more quickly and departments where employee operability requires this transition to be spread over time,” Karl continues. “This is usually due to the availability of charging infrastructure and the general mindset. In short, avoid premature decisions without proper study and forecasting and dare to share that insight with your customers.”

One of the biggest challenges within Sopadis is that electric vehicles require less frequent and less intensive maintenance. “To accommodate this, we need to rethink our business model,” Stefan acknowledges. “One-stop shopping, customer experience, advice and excellent service will become core values more than ever. In addition to the car, the range of services will become increasingly important in order to guarantee a comprehensive offer to our professional and private customers.” 

Trust and talent

The vision and strategy adopted by Sopadis fits in seamlessly with the mobility approach that BDO itself rolls out internally and shares “inside out” with its customers. According to Benoît, this culture of openness, knowledge sharing and professionalism is a strong asset and decisive for cooperation. For years now, Sopadis has been relying on the experience and know-how of BDO Belgium in the development of its retail network. “Moreover, BDO’s expertise and market approach match the SME segment on which we are aiming. You sense that their people know how a family business runs, what sensitivities there are, and that they will respectfully but decisively manage a takeover. In any case, the success of any collaboration, in whatever business, relies on trust and the talent of the people you gather around you.”

Tips & tricks

  • Think carefully about electrification and mobility in general.
  • Be motivated to achieve sustainable mobility, but always monitor the operational performance and efficiency within the transition.
  • Don’t rush, and ask the right questions to the right people.
  • Find early adopters within your organisation who empirically demonstrate that electric driving is feasible in the right circumstances.
  • Make use of fleet experts in the areas of taxation, charging infrastructure and Total Cost of Ownership. This will help you see the bigger picture.
  • Frame your mobility strategy within a period of five years within which tax changes are decisive.
  • Choose partners with proven experience who have mobility in all its facets in their DNA.

Ready to create sustainable mobility together? 

Discover here how BDO can support you in rolling out sustainable mobility.