Dubbing the UK market the 'problem child' of most international rental firms, Dr Michael Kern, chief executive officer of Europcar International, said the UK division had managed to break even last year.
He said: 'After three years of arduous reconstruction, Europcar has been able to recover there and has finally achieved the turn-around in commercial terms again during the last year. We have a dedicated team in the UK.'
Together with a strong performance from Italy, where demand pushed turnover up 29% to 152 million Euro and France, where turnover rose 8%, the firm revealed pre-tax profits for 2001 of 26.2 million Euro, up from 24.1 million Euro in 2000, on turnover up from 986 million Euro to 1.05 billion Euro.
But this year, the firm expects to see turnover rise 8% and profits more than double to 50 million Euro as further efficiencies in the operation take effect, while its total rentals rise from 5.6 million in 2001 to a predicted 5.8 million this year, thereby clinching Europe's number one spot.
Kern said: 'Europcar has developed into a global provider of mobility services and thus integrates the business of renting cars within a consistent global mobility concept. Europcar is engaged in further collaborations with tour operators, travel agencies and automobile manufacturers.'
Following the introduction of new price tariffs for added value services last year to fend off falling profits caused by lower residual values, Kern dismissed any idea of a return to the days of competing on price alone.
He said: 'Price reductions must remain out of the question. Based on the first months of the current business year, we expect to be able to maintain business development in general at the high level shown at the end of 2001, so we anticipate a further increase in profits and turnover, but fleet costs will remain high, which will mean branches raising prices as well.'