Among the casualties of the continuing fall in prices combined with rising costs last year was Standish Self Drive, which collapsed with debts estimated at more than £10 million. And Century International, one of the largest UK independent non-franchised car hire businesses, went into administration earlier this year and was sold in March, starting an overhaul of top management and a renaming as Century Car Rental. Andy Leedan, a fleet director in the previous company, is now its co-director, alongside former vehicle purchasing director Jim Thorpe.
The difficult market has created great opportunities for major players looking to expand, as they pick off smaller rivals in the market. The year began with a shake-up for Britain's car hire industry, as Enterprise Rent-A-Car bought Churchfields Vehicle Rentals just three days before it went into liquidation and Avis Europe bought credit hire and non-fault claims management company 3 Arrows. Among those buying is Budget Rent-a-Car, which has acquired car rental rivals Jasmor and Woods in the past year. The purchase at Jasmor coincided with the appointment of receivers at the firm.
United Kenning Rental Group, owner of Kenning Car, Van and Truck Rental, has also changed hands, becoming part of international rental firm Sixt. But following the concerted period of change in the industry, a settling period is expected for the near future. Michael McInerney, UK fleet operations manager for Europcar, which is now completely under Volkswagen's ownership after French firm Accor sold its half share of the company, said: 'In the short-term, I don't see any more acquisitions - all the low-hanging fruit has now been picked off.'