Fleet News

Award winner's profile: National Car Rental

TO hear most motor manufacturers speak, it might seem that supplying vehicles to rental companies was equivalent to striking a deal with the devil.

With every new sales prediction comes the mantra that sales to rental companies have been reduced or slashed in a bid to protect residual values.

It is hard to imagine any other sector of business when such a huge market would be treated with almost complete disdain, where turning away business is celebrated and furtive supply arrangements are barely given a mention.

What makes it all the more unusual is that a rental fleet could be the best customer a manufacturer has, if the right amount of effort goes into the deal.

After all, they are customers which can take huge amounts of vehicles at regular intervals and, if the manufacturer wants to keep residual values in check, the rental firm will hand them back with relatively little mileage, so the cars can be drip-fed into the market.

Considering this gloomy background, it is fitting that many suppliers to National Car Rental are happy to speak openly about winning large contracts.

In January 2003, Vauxhall struck an estimated £1 billion supply deal with National Car Rental and Alamo that saw the rental giant agree to take 22,000 vehicles a year from the car range.

The vehicles, which will be changed twice a year, represent 40% of Vanguard's fleet, which runs more than 30,000 vehicles in the UK. The contract, totalling 66,000 cars over the next three years, also allows for the provision of up to a further 9,000 vehicles during that time.

The huge contract continued a business relationship between the two companies which stretches back to the mid-1970s, and replaces an existing rolling one-year contract that has run for the past three years.

For Neil McCrossan, vice-president of sales and marketing, this is indicative of National Car Rental's reputation in the industry.

He said: 'Companies don't need to deal with us if they don't want to, although we act as a great shop window for their business.

'However, we are the rental company of choice. We take what we say, bring the fleet back when we say we will, and pay our bills quickly. We are just easy to deal with. Manufacturers value that.'

It is an approach to business that customers also value, which was recognised in March this year when National Car Rental won the Best Daily Rental Company trophy, sponsored by AA Tyre Fit, at the Fleet News Awards.

The judges said: 'A shortlist of comments about the highlights of National Car Rental's submission this year filled more than a page. From the clear customer support to its strong branch network and the vast breadth of vehicles and services on offer, it was a clear leader this year.

'It has invested in a string of new locations in 2003 with 22 planned for this year, while its van network has also grown. Its web-based rental service carhirebooker.com is one of the best in the industry and 100 locations are open 24 hours a day.

'Add to that its commendable efforts to help drivers cope with congestion charging, tailored products, pool car service and clever use of technology and it is clear the firm thoroughly deserves the award.'

For McCrossan, winning the award was just reward for the immense effort by employees to ensure service levels are kept as high as possible.

He said: 'The important aspect was that we offer a full service solution. Some rental companies are good in some areas, but we want to be good in all areas, from airport to internal, insurance, fleet replacement and pool vehicles.

'We aim to create a bespoke service for customers, not delivering the same solution for each one. This is underlined by ensuring we do it right, thanks to the best people and systems.'

As a long-term player in the industry, National Car Rental and its related brands have established a record of credibility, he argued, especially delivering on promises made to both manufacturers and customers.

He said: 'Rivals may deliver proposals and presentations on products that are similar, but we can deliver on it.'

As a result, the firm's fleet size is growing steadily, from 30,000 in 2003 to a peak of 35,500 this year, which was reached two months earlier than usual, thanks to sustained efforts that won market share from rivals.

McCrossan credits a range of areas as being key successes, including the van business, flexible rental, and growth in demand for minibuses.

In April, the firm announced it was extending its 5,000-strong commercial vehicle fleet by 500 in a bid to cope with industry growth.

Customers also seem happy, with recent contracts including a £500,000 deal with Coca-Cola, a £200,000 deal with Total Motion, while Custom Fleet has awarded it a £500,000 deal. Demand for rental over the internet has also grown, with about 20% of business going through the web, while online bookings could account for a quarter of corporate business by the end of the year.

As well as the award win for Best Daily Rental Company, the firm's website carhirebooker.com, an online rental management tool for business and fleet customers that had 300,000 transactions last year, was shortlisted in the Fleet NewsNet Best Website Award this year.

It is also adapting its services to meet the future needs of the market, including operating hybrid pool car schemes using rental vehicles.

Currently, there are about 300 vehicles in the pool car scheme, with plans for future expansion, including an analysis of the benefits of telematics technology.

Technology is also being used in one of its latest services, ACLAIM, which stands for automated customer and liability assessment insurance system management.

National Car Rental has to process 120,000 damage claims a year and the system is designed to speed up the process and clear up any arguments over responsibility. The fully-automated insurance claims system will speed up the reporting of claims to customers and streamline the administration process.

National Car Rental fact file

  • In the UK, National Car Rental has 145 locations and a fleet of 35,000 vehicles
  • It employs 2,000 full-time staff plus 2,000 on flexible working
  • Main brands are National Car Rental, Alamo, Guy Salmon and carhirebooker.com
  • National Car Rental is the winner of the Best Daily Rental Company Award in the Fleet News Awards 2004 – the tenth year that the company has won this prestigious prize
  • National Car Rental now operates in over 80 countries worldwide, with nearly 3,200 locations and a fleet in excess of 350,000
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