Wheels' Fleet History | Wheels
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Our History

First in Fleet

In 1939, Zollie Frank, proprietor of the nation’s largest Chevrolet dealership, Z Frank Chevrolet, pioneered the North American fleet management industry when he developed a creative solution for a pressing client need. A large Chicago company, Petrolagar, was losing salespeople after helping them fund the down payment on a personal vehicle that they would use on the job. Zollie designed a closed-end leasing solution to help the client improve salesperson retention while incurring a predictable monthly cost. With the acquisition and lease of 75 vehicles, the Wheels business was born. From those humble beginnings, Wheels grew into an industry leader.

In 1963, LeasePlan is founded in Amsterdam by Anton Goudsmit, Huibert van der Meulen and Frits Kuiper to lease equipment – a business virtually unknown in the Netherlands.

In 1965, Don Rappeport and Len Vine found a new fleet management company and they name it Donlen.

In December 2022, with the announcement of the Wheels Donlen and LeasePlan USA merger within Athene Holding Ltd, a new entity has emerged – a customer-centric provider of comprehensive fleet management solutions. Today, Wheels manages over 800,000 vehicles in North America, and over 3 million vehicles in 61 countries worldwide in global alliance with Ayvens.

Wheels’ history is marked with a series of industry firsts with product innovations and business growth driven by the evolving needs of our clients.


Entrepreneur, Zollie Frank, pioneers the leasing industry when he founds Wheels – created to help pharmaceutical company Petrolager (now Pfizer), manage its sales vehicle fleet; Pfizer is still a client today.

1958 – Wheels became the first FMC to offer Truck Consulting. They also launched business in Canada during this same year.

1960 – Wheels develops the industry’s first computerized vehicle ordering system.


LeasePlan is founded in Amsterdam by Anton Goudsmit, Huibert van der Meulen and Frits Kuiper to lease equipment – a business virtually unknown in the Netherlands.


Don Rappeport (a former Wheels employee) and Len Vine found a new fleet management company and they name it Donlen.

1970s – LeasePlan expands internationally with operations in Belgium, Germany, France and Great Britain.

1970s – Donlen focuses on additional fleet needs by providing specialty vehicles (like trucks and vans) to meet client needs.

1972 – Wheels introduced Fuel and Maintenance programs.


LeasePlan USA is established. LeasePlan takes a share in Thornwood Leasing. The company takes the name LeasePlan Thornwood Leasing in 1983.

1990 – LeasePlan’s Truck Leasing department is created. LeasePlan creates LeasePlan International, a centralized international fleet management solution.

1997 – Donlen introduces FleetWeb, a Web-based fleet management system for client use. LeasePlan launches its version, ePlan, in 1998 and one year later Wheels introduces FleetView.

2000 – LeasePlan acquires Consolidated Services Corporation (CSC). CSC was founded in 1947 to handle billing and maintenance for Wheels. The CSC brand was later retired in 2003.

2003 – LeasePlan launches the Network brand which partners with independent leasing companies, dealers and manufacturers to provide fleet management services to small-to-mid-sized customers. This allows the lessor partner to compete for business as a full-service provider while also earning additional income from Network.


Donlen’s Vehicle Optimization Model revolutionizes life-cycle analysis through the industry’s most advanced opportunity for acquisition consultation, analysis, and benchmarking.

2008 – Donlen creates the first ever fleet carbon reporting tool used to track and benchmark a fleet’s carbon output.

2009 – Wheels forms a partnership with ALD Automotive.

2009 – Donlen launches first customized fleet management app to help keep fleet drivers connected and productive.

2010 – Donlen launches DriverPoint, a telematics solution to integrate driving behavior data.

2010 – Donlen forms strategic partnerships with Athlon International in Europe and Masterlease in Mexico.

2011 – Donlen becomes wholly owned subsidiary of Hertz.

2016 – Wheels becomes the first fleet management company to offer a comprehensive reimbursement solution for employee-owned vehicles.


LeasePlan introduces Elle, the very first virtual assistant for fleet drivers.

2019 – LeasePlan introduces OneConnect, a new connected vehicle cloud platform, merging real-time data from multiple sources providing a 360-degree view of overall fleet performance and driver behavior.

2021 – Donlen is acquired by Athene Holding Ltd. In October of the same year, Athene purchased Wheels creating a global fleet organization with $5 Billion in assets, 100+ Fortune 500 clients, a wider product range and a highly diversified customer base.

2022 – In June, Athene signs a stock purchase agreement to acquire LeasePlan USA. In December, the merger of Wheels Donlen with LeasePlan USA brings together three leading FMCs to form an industry leading fleet management company.


The new Wheels hits the road! Better Together and positioned to reimagine Fleet Mobility for our customers.

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