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Alphabet launches alternative company car scheme

Alphabet, a fleet funding company which is part of the BMW Group, is launching a new scheme in the UK today that provides companies with on-demand, technology-driven, business and personal mobility.

The service, called AlphaCity, features easy self-booking for employees and controlled keyless access to cars and enables Alphabet to monitor and record the vehicles’ usage and create reports and itemised invoices for customers broken down by cost centre, if requested.

“AlphaCity will offer our customers increased flexibility, freedom and cost-effectiveness. Whenever we have raised the concept in discussions, our customers have been hugely enthusiastic about its potential to meet the mobility needs of their non-company-car drivers,” said Richard Schooling, chief executive of Alphabet.

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As well as overcoming the familiar drawbacks of pool cars, AlphaCity has been designed to lessen customers’ dependence on daily rental and employee’s own vehicles for business travel while complementing their existing car benefit schemes.

A key advantage of the new product is that the business can charge employees to book AlphaCity cars for personal use when the cars are not needed for business trips. The system can take credit card payments for private use, the proceeds of which off set the net cost of the scheme to the company.

AlphaCity is believed to be the first corporate car sharing scheme in Europe to operate on a leasing model. Customers lease the cars on a normal full maintenance monthly rental plus a service charge for the AlphaCity elements (reservation facility, in-vehicle solution, vehicle cleaning etc.). Customers thus ‘own’ their AlphaCity cars and can therefore offer their staff assured mobility around the clock.

All AlphaCity cars are BMW and MINI models. The primary reason for choosing BMW products is because they incorporate a proven factory-fitted telematics and communication platform – BMW ConnctedDrive/MINI Connected. This gives Alphabet reliable control over drivers’ access to AlphaCity cars as well as the facility to record each use, and manage utilisation as appropriate.

Initially, BMW 1-Series and X1 and most MINI variants will be available to AlphaCity customers. Using premium products makes AlphaCity acceptable to all levels of employees for business use and adds to the scheme’s appeal for staff who pay to use the vehicles privately.

Schooling added: “We’ve made AlphaCity as painless and productive as possible for customers. They simply lease the cars, provide parking spaces, tell their staff about the scheme, with guidance from Alphabet, and let us do the rest.

“The cars are aspirational. The experience of using AlphaCity is fun and high-tech. And the membership aspect fosters a feeling of shared responsibility that mitigates against colleagues returning cars late, dirty or without fuel. AlphaCity isn’t just a new way of delivering mobility, it helps employers drive desired behaviours.

“For the employee, it’s like joining a car club that’s exclusive to people working for their company. They get a membership card that also operates the car’s keyless entry system and, when they need to make a journey, they reserve an AlphaCity car in advance on our booking system via the Internet or mobile website.

“Once they’re in the car, there’s a fully integrated PIN-activated screen console where they complete a pre-set checklist including vehicle cleanliness and damage at the beginning and end of their booking. At the end of their session, they park the car in the reserved space, sign out and its ready for the next user. If they need to talk to someone during the session, there’s a one-touch, hands-free, link directly from the car to the AlphaCity contact centre, which is available 24/7.”

AlphaCity records the timing, duration and mileage of each booking using data transmitted by the cars’ innovative technology at the beginning and end of each session. Costs (including fuel bought with a dedicated fuel card located within each car) can be charged centrally to the customer or apportioned to cost centres and individuals.

Customers can configure aspects of AlphaCity to their own requirements – for example the times when cars are available for private use; whether fuel is charged at a flat rate or at actual cost, and the level of any penalties applied to drivers who return cars late, dirty or without fuel.

In due course, Alphabet will roll out the concept across all 19 markets in which it currently operates.

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