Fleet Complete steps on telematics gas, with DT and GM deals


Telematics and fleet management provider Fleet Complete has announced two rather sizeable deals this week, as the company ramps up its expansion plans – funded by Madison Dearborn Partners. One deal with General Motors sees Fleet Complete integrate its management and telematics systems with GM’s OnStar connectivity system, and the other sees Deutsche Telekom partner with Fleet Complete to provide fleet management offerings to German customers.

These telematics providers, of both hardware and services, are going to come under increased pressure in the coming decade, as the automakers try to integrate the services they provide directly into the vehicles – so that a telematics system can be provided fresh from the factory.

But the specialist telematics vendors are going to have a big head start in this sector, thanks to their expertise, and will also be able to act as specialist partners for the automakers and their respective suppliers. There will likely be a lot of consolidation in this market, as the automakers and OEMs begin to absorb the telematics providers.

Headquartered in Canada, Fleet Complete was founded 1998 (originally called Complete Innovations, and then incorporated as Courier Complete in 2000). With an initial focus on the courier industry, it expanded to distribution, transportation, and field services. It officially changed its name to Fleet Complete in 2014, following the investment from Madison Dearborn Partners.

The Fleet Complete telematics solution was launched in 2005, and partnerships followed – with Canadian MNO Telus (2007), Garmin (2010), AT&T (2011), Intact Insurance (2015), Telstra (Australia, 2017), and T-Mobile (Austria, 2017).

The company has made a number of acquisitions, entering the European market in 2016 by acquiring IT Mobile and Australia by Securatrak. The next year saw it acquire BigRoad, and it started 2018 by acquiring EcoFleet, a Scandinavian fleet management provider.

Which brings us to the GM and DT deals. With GM, the focus is on the US market, with all OnStar-equipped Buick, Cadillac, Chevrolet, and GMC vehicles newer that 2015 apparently compatible with the configuration. Intended for use by both small and large businesses, Fleet Complete’s Connvex platform is pitching cost savings and improved driver behavior as its main benefits.

The applications are being provided by GM’s OnStar connectivity, which also handles the In-Vehicle Infotainment (IVI) system and some telematics functions. GM usually provides a year’s worth of OnStar to all new cars it sells, as a way to convince buyers of the value of the service – which includes emergency assistance and automatic crash reporting, in-vehicle WiFi, and navigation services. OnStar does, however, already provide a telematics service, called Vehicle Manager, so it will be interesting to see how that plays with Fleet Complete.

Fleet Complete is pretty optimistic about the partnership. “Working with GM Fleet is a major milestone for us as an organization, and we are very excited at the opportunity to jointly serve fleets well into the future,” said Tony Lourakis, CEO of Fleet Complete. “Our collaboration attests to the fact that integrated connected vehicles, especially in business, are becoming the new norm. Our IoT solutions are designed to offer fleets of all sizes and vehicle types the advantage of big data analytics. Working together with GM will simplify consumer access to connected vehicle technologies and help more fleet-owning businesses thrive.”

A key part of the offering is the lack of a long-term contract. The pair say that they provide immediate device onboarding, as long as you have a 2015 car, and that the system is billed in a rolling fashion – so that you don’t get locked into a lengthy contract. That’s a smart move, given the number of other telematics providers out there that would love to snap up the business of an unhappy user. Companies are more likely to sign if they feel they will be able to more easily walk away if it is not what they expected.

Deutsche Telekom, meanwhile, looks to be using the Fleet Complete platform to provide its own branded telematics solutions to fleet customers in Germany. The MNO says that the country houses around 5m commercial vehicles, and is a market that is consistently growing.

As such, it plans to provide a packaged service, which include the device hardware, installation, and the online portal functions. Based around Fleet Complete’s Drive and Track system, DT is aiming this at fleets that want to create more efficient operations, by merging trips to cut out unnecessary miles.

DT is providing four different packages of Drive and Track. Starting out at €18 per month per vehicle, the first tier will provide live tracking and automated driving behavior reporting, for things like harsh braking and acceleration, and geo-fencing alerts, to send automated emails when vehicles leave defined locations.

The next step up, the advanced tier, begins at €23 per vehicle per month, and provides data from the Engine Control Module (ECM) that can be used for preventative maintenance and remote diagnostics. The ECM also provides fuel status and ‘incident’ reporting. The next tier up adds the speedometer data for the trucks, and costs €32 per vehicle per month – which feels like quite a big step up for just adding one additional data point that the advanced tier doesn’t have.

The fourth and final tier is called fleet sharing, and costs €52 per vehicle per month. This package enables vehicle sharing between multiple employees, via an app that lets them reserve vehicles for use from a shared fleet. This one is perhaps most transformative, especially for smaller businesses, as it allows them to get more usage out of a smaller fleet – provided they can also deploy a remote unlock system like those commonly found on hire cars now. This could allow such businesses to own fewer vehicles, and get more out of each one.

To this end, DT says it will work with cars equipped with RFID card readers, and for the fleet managers, the system will report location, status, and driving behavior automatically.

“We are excited to work with Fleet Complete, who have tremendous experience selling with mobile carriers around the world,” said Dennis Nikles of Deutsche Telekom. “Our goal is to help our customers become even more successful in their business and, now, we’re able to offer a comprehensive fleet management platform that is as flexible as our customers’ needs. Supported by the network and infrastructure of Deutsche Telekom, our clients will be able to provide even better services to their own customer base.”