Europe’s top seven leasing companies – car lessors with significant operational leasing – are not the green leaders they claim to be, a study by Transport & Environment (T&E) has claimed. 

Using a framework of seven criteria to evaluate their performance on green mobility, none of the companies succeeded.

The firms analysed in the report are Volkswagen Financial Services, Mobilize Financial Services, Ayvens (previously ALD/LeasePlan), Arval, Leasys, Alphabet, and Athlon. Together these companies oversee a fleet of close to 10 million cars in the EU. In Europe, half of new cars are now registered under a leasing contract. Leasing companies therefore have a major influence on the pace of EU transition to e-mobility and cuts its transport emissions.

No leasing company has committed to fully phasing out fossil fuel cars. In contrast, many carmakers and large corporations have already pledged to go 100% electric by 2030. 

Ayvens (ex-ALD/LeasePlan) is the only leasing company with a target for the uptake of battery electric vehicles (BEVs) that is more ambitious than carmaker production plans. Other leasing companies have weak or no targets for the uptake of BEVs.

Data disclosure by leasing firms is poor. They do not publish data on new car registrations and types of vehicles leased in EU countries, making it difficult to track progress on electromobility. 

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All seven leasing companies were contacted by T&E to submit data on their car fleets.

Using 2023 registrations in France and Italy – the only two countries where car registrations are recorded per company – the analysis shows that all of the leasing companies have a lower BEV uptake than the general market in France and three of the leasing companies (Leasys, Alphabet, Athlon) also lag behind the market in Italy. 

Arval, Ayvens (ex-ALD/LeasePlan) and Mobilize are electro-mobility laggards in their largest market, France, T&E says. Leasys is a laggard in its largest market, Italy.

The analysis grades companies according to three further criteria, relating to CO2 emissions, share of plug-in hybrids (PHEV), and share of large cars. On most criteria the leasing giants are failing to act as green leaders, T&E says.

Stef Cornelis, director of electric fleets at T&E, says: “Lack of transparency, weak climate targets, and poor uptake of battery electric cars in two key markets – the track record of the largest leasing companies is very far from where it should be. These auto giants should move away from the fossil era much more quickly and fully embrace the electric age. Only then will they become the green leaders they claim to be.”

The investigation also finds that six out of seven leasing companies are greenwashing and misleading customers with green claims about electromobility. Except for Ayvens (ex-ALD/LeasePlan), statements of green leadership made by the six others could not be backed up by evidence and were deemed to be untrue.

Volkswagen Financial Services (VWFS) – the EU’s largest leasing company – has said it is “driving the transition to zero-emission mobility”. But upon closer inspection, the study finds that the company has higher CO2 emissions from new registrations compared to the rest of the market in France (111 vs 99g CO2/km) and Italy (126 vs 120g CO2/km) over the first half of 2023.

Arval has said it is “committed to growing [their] share of EVs at twice the pace of the market.” Arval disclosed an electric car uptake of 36.4% in the first half of 2023 which is not twice the market (21.7%). Furthermore, most of these EVs were plug-in hybrids, which are as polluting as petrol and diesel cars. 

Leasys – owned by Stellantis and Crédit Agricole – “aims to lead the transition to electric mobility”. With a BEV uptake of only 2.3% in Italy, Leasys lags behind in its main market.

Stef Cornelis said: “The world is phasing out fossil fuels. Why not leasing companies? With such power and resources, they have the ability to switch to electromobility much quicker than they are doing so far in the EU. They have a real opportunity to move from climate laggards to green leaders if they stop leasing fossil fuel cars by 2028. So why miss this chance?”

Leasing companies are the unknown giants of the automotive world. The seven leasing companies analysed in the report oversee a fleet of an estimated 9.3 million cars in the EU and over a quarter of all new car registrations (30.0%). 

Leasing companies have a very big impact on the pace the market transitions from fossil cars to electric cars. The companies are also extremely profitable, with profit margins of 12% to 50% for the companies analysed. Profits have recently crossed the billion euro mark for Ayvens (ex-ALD/LeasePlan) and Arval.

Due to their size and financial standing, T&E calls upon these seven companies to set a 100% BEV target by 2028, at the latest. The analysis shows that this will lead to 11.9 million additional BEVs on the road and CO2 savings of 73 million tonnes in the EU by 2030. 

Setting an ambitious BEV target presents them with an opportunity to leave the fossil age behind, T&E says. They can become green leaders and make a sizable contribution to meeting the EU’s climate targets and cleaning up transport.

T&E report: Stuck in the Fossil Age: Are car leasing companies in the EU green leaders or greenwashing?

T&E is a non-profit organisation that receives funding from the Climate Imperative Foundation, The European Climate Foundation, the Schwab Charitable Fund, the European Commission, the Quadrature Climate Foundation, and the Norwegian Agency for Development Cooperation, amongst other organisations.

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