As constraints on providers grow, including the arrival of congestion charging, parking fines and administrative burdens, technology is set to play an even greater role.
Two major developments have been the advent of online booking and remote access of daily rental vehicles, which both help rental firms to operate more efficiently.
Penny Stoolman, director of sales and marketing at Avis UK, explained the benefits of online booking systems.
She said: ‘In 2003, 3% of all Avis corporate rentals were made online. This had increased to 11% by the end of July.
‘Sites can be tailored to a corporate renter’s travel policy requirements, such as defaulting automatically to the driver’s permissible choice of car, insurance rates and other options. Bookings for delivery and collection can be made automatically and the car rental company can supply detailed management information to clients, which helps them run their businesses more efficiently.’
Another leap in technology is the remote monitoring and management of rental cars as part of car-sharing schemes. Vehicles are left in a vehicle pool and when a renter wants to hire the car, for as little as an hour, the control centre can unlock the vehicle and monitor how long it is used for and how many miles it covers.
Stoolman explained: ‘Avis is involved with the Urbigo project, which is an alternative to owning a car. Membership gives fleets a key fob which gives access to an Avis rental car. Blip the key fob and GPRS technology in each car sets the mileage and time calculator running, and blip it at the end of the journey to bring the journey to a close. The car is charged on time and mileage and users are billed for vehicle use on a monthly basis.’
In the future, Avis sees the corporate renter being able to access a rental car in the same way.
Corporate customers could have Avis cars on site with each of their departments having a separate key fob, enabling employees to access a car as and when they want and the customer being billed at the end of the month.
Stoolman believes the future of car rental will focus on technology, which will simplify the rental process, in turn making vehicles more widely available.
She said: ‘Migrating customers to booking vehicles on the internet is a priority for all car rental companies and Avis is finding the traditional perceptions of car rental are being simplified as the industry puts everything online.’