Starting any business in the last year has not been for the faint-hearted. Duncan Chumley talks Dan Gilkes through the launch of MyVanDirect.
Duncan Chumley is no stranger to the vehicle rental and leasing business. Previously managing director of PSA’s Free2Move Lease business, he left to set up his own company in March 2020. That company was MyCarDirect, an online car subscription service aimed directly at the small to medium enterprise (SME) market. Of course, global events conspired to throw that plan slightly, but the company finally launched in September of last year. With the car business now up and running, he is moving to the second stage, with the introduction of MyVanDirect.
“Light commercials were always in the business plan, but its only now that we’ve got stock,” said Chumley.
The business concept revolves around one word, flexibility. Companies pay a one-off joining fee and then a monthly subscription fee, for anything from one month to two years. You can even have a rolling one-month contract, though the majority of early users have opted for a 12-month term.
“A lot of companies at the moment don’t know what the future holds,” said Chumley.
“People are learning what the new economy is going to look like. That’s why we can be as flexible as you like.”
Rather than simply leasing a van of a given size or weight class, customers log onto the website and choose an actual vehicle, reserving that specific van for their use. They can choose manufacturer, trim level, colour and even some popular options. If the van is available online, the contract can start the next day, though specific vans can also be ordered to suit if they can wait.
At launch, the vehicles on offer cover most of the popular sizes up to 3.5-tonnes. This includes panel vans, minibuses and some conversions such as dropsides. The company also has a small number of pick-ups available.
“We’d like to have a wider range of vehicles as we grow,” said Chumley. “I’d like to get some refrigerated vehicles on the fleet too.”
Once the customer has chosen the van, it is delivered to their home or business premises, by MyVanDirect’s own staff, to ensure the customer experience is retained throughout. The company is also building a network of six outlets across the UK, where subscribers can call in if they prefer. To date this includes the head office location in Hemel Hempstead and a site in Birmingham.
The monthly subscription includes all costs, such as repair and maintenance and tyres, there is even an insurance option through a partner company. Service work will be carried out by main dealers and by Kwikfit depots around the country. Customers can cover up to 2,000 miles a month in the vans, plus they can pay for additional mileage. When vehicles are returned, they are inspected in line with BVRLA standards.
All of the vehicles are equipped with telematics, so the company can forewarn customers of future service requirements. The telematic data can also be supplied to customers, if they would like to integrate it within their own fleet management software. In the longer term, the company will offer a full fleet management or telematic system through another partner business.
At present, the business has just under 500 vehicles on its books, of which 150 are vans.
“The plan is to have 2,000 vehicles by the end of 2022 and based on the current levels of demand that’s achievable, subject to supply,” said Chumley.
“The split between cars and vans will be decided by customers, but the demand is just huge. We had 28 Transits in last week and they have all gone out already.”
Both the car and van businesses will offer electric vehicles too, allowing companies to try before they buy and to see if an EV will work within their operation. At present 20% of the car fleet is electric or hybrid, though this is expected to grow rapidly. Again, demand is currently outstripping supply.
“My aim is to have a good proportion of the fleet EV,” said Chumley. “Everything is digital, the customer can do the whole thing online. We want to build relationships with businesses.”
This flexible approach relates to upscaling or downscaling the number of vehicles being used. One existing client currently has four vehicles in use, but most are operating one or two, to fill a short-term gap in their fleets. Customers can also mix cars and vans, to meet changing demand. Chumley is even looking at the possibility of registered subscription customers being able to occasionally use each other’s vehicles when needed, over a weekend for instance, reducing monthly costs for the subscriber.
“Businesses are having to be very dynamic, so we are trying to do the same thing,” he said.