By John Lewis, chief executive, BVRLA
Car rental is entering an exciting phase. Traditionally used for specific purposes – as a replacement vehicle, on business trips or for leisure journeys – the pay-as-you-go car is increasingly being seen as an all-round ‘mobility solution’.
A whole range of variations have appeared on the car rental theme, including car clubs and corporate car clubs such as ZipCar and Alpha City, car-sharing operations such as Car2Go and DriveNow, and ‘drive your neighbour’s car’ offerings such as WhipCar.
None of these varieties of car rental provides the perfect solution to everyone’s motoring needs; each is suited to certain types of journey.
However, they complement each other and together provide a growing suite of car rental options that make people and companies more comfortable with the idea of giving up more of their own cars.
The initial opportunity is in urban areas, where factors like congestion charges, limited parking and good public transport networks already weaken the case for car ownership.
To win new types of customer, this new range of car rental operators will need to use technology to integrate with the wider transport network.
One-way car-sharing operations that rely on cars being available in the right places are already making good use of geofencing technology to help ensure this happens.
Better customer information is also a key requirement. Transport advice websites like the Transport for London Travel Planner would be a great place to start.
Unfortunately, local authorities still lag behind. Driven by central government transport policy edicts, most are focused solely on one or two car clubs and often seen as a profit-making way of selling off special parking spaces.
It is time the Government stimulated further research into this area.