Most often, the problem is finding a like-for-like replacement while the original vehicle is off the road. Few fleets can afford, or would even want to consider, running prestige cars like Porsche 911s or Ferraris.
Nevertheless, in many companies, prestige models are offered to directors or very senior managers, while in other fleets – often in the hi-tech or financial sectors – they are used as motivational or retention tools for key operating or high-performing sales staff.
However, help is at hand for fleets needing a replacement for such a vehicle – or even wanting to try using one as a weekend ‘prize’ for an employee who meets a certain target – via a surprisingly large number of daily rental firms.
Many of these are, as you might expect, run by the larger companies such as Avis, Enterprise and Sixt, while a growing number of specialist companies (see below) are carving out their own niche in the market.
The downside of using the smaller operators is that most do not offer a network of branches. And while they are often happy to deliver cars anywhere in the country, charges for this can be quite steep if it is many miles from their base. Even the larger companies cannot afford to have such cars sitting all over the UK. Avis Prestige Car Rental, for instance, runs from a head office in South Kensington and operates four branches at present.
Brian Thompson, operations manager of Avis Prestige Car Rental, which has branches in central London, Heathrow, Stansted and Gatwick, explained: ‘You cannot open up a branch just anywhere for prestige cars. They tend to be at major city centres and airports.
‘We do a lot of like-for-like replacements. We also do fun hires, such as a cabrio for the weekend – and many fleets use this facility to their advantage. In addition we supply replacement vehicles to some of the credit hire companies for no-fault accidents.’
Sixt Rent a Car prides itself on being one of the larger operators able to get such vehicles to any of its branches, without extra cost.
Marc Thornton, Sixt’s sales director, said: ‘We’ll offer them through the majority of our branches and locations in the UK. Wherever a car is required, the hirer doesn’t pay any extra charge for delivery.’
Rates, as you might expect, are not cheap – after all, companies investing up to £70,000 in a car want a reasonable rate of return. However, they are not as bad as you might think.
David Turnock, Sixt’s regional manager for London, said: ‘A Mercedes-Benz E-class from us could cost £100 for a day, but for £149 you could have a CLK Cabriolet – so the difference is not that great. Another comparison might be a run-of-the-mill Volvo S60 for the day at around £119 or a Shogun with sat-nav and all the toys for about £20 more.’
Big discounts are available for volume business. Thompson said: ‘Leasing companies get good rates. A Mercedes-Benz C-class tariff rate would be £115 for a day’s rental but that could go as low as £40 per day. We’d negotiate on longer hires, normally up to 25% off on anything over a week.
‘Another way of keeping the cost of prestige/luxury hire down is by self insuring. A Porsche 911 Carrera 997 from Avis costs £400 for the day including insurance, but without insurance it drops to £300.
‘Making sure people let us know vehicles are off-hire once they have finished with them – instead of leaving them outside a driver’s house for instance – is another way of keeping costs to the minimum.’
Thornton is disappointed that fleets have not been quicker to avail themselves of prestige hire.
He said: ‘We haven’t seen a great uptake from fleet operators. It’s grown rather slowly.
‘But where we’ve seen a big uptake is the concierge service connected with hotels.
‘However, from our point of view we feel it’s better to be known as a company which offers a wide range of services to customers.
‘Fleet operators usually want bog standard vehicles, but more are requiring prestige vehicles such as a Mercedes if they have a photo shoot, or senior management or a senior client need to be put into a particular vehicle.’
Rental companies offer chauffeurs as well as vehicles
If you want a prestige car driven by a chauffeur, some of the hire companies can arrange this too.
Sixt Rent a Car, for instance, has an arrangement with an outside company. Guy Salmon offers a chauffeur drive service supplied by its licensee Carey Worldwide Chauffeured Services.
On the other hand, there are plenty of stand-alone chauffeur-drive companies with which to strike up a business relationship. But check exactly what kind of vehicle will be used. A top industrialist from overseas may feel insulted if he is expecting a luxury car and a people-carrier turns up, however smart it is.
Luxury car hire – who offers what
|Ferrari-hire.com||Solihull, West Mids||1 (Solihull)||0870 429 9325||www.ferrari-hire.com|
|Classic Car Group||Baildon, West Yorks||2 (Yorkshire & Oxfordshire)||08452 308308||www.classiccarhire.co.uk|
|Prestige Car Hire||Edgware, Middx||1 (collection/delivery available)||0208 952 2850||www.prestigecarhire.co.uk|
|Luxury Car Hire||Hounslow, Middx||3 (Hounslow, Manchester, Edinburgh)||0870 191 6914||www.luxury-carhire.co.uk|
|Guy Salmon||Leicester||5 (luxury hire centres London, Birmingham, Leeds, Manchester, Edinburgh - company has over 20 branches)||0870 600 7006||www.guysalmon.com|
|Cars4Rental||Eccleston, Lancs||Via Guy Salmon network||0870 242 6996||www.cars4rental.co.uk|
|Escape Prestige Vehicle Hire||Thornbury, Bristol||1 (Bristol)||01454 410144||www.escapeprestigehire.co.uk|
|Enterprise rent-a-car||Egham, Surrey||UK-wide network||0870 350 3000||www.enterprise.com|
|Aston Hire||Cleethorpes, Lincs||1 (Cleethorpes)||01472 602007||www.aston-hire.co.uk|
|Sixt Rent a Car||Chesterfield, Derbyshire||UK-wide network||0870 1555800||www.e-sixt.co.uk (see Jeeps and cabrios page)|
|Dollar Rent A Car||London||UK-wide network||0800 085 4578||www.dollar.co.uk|
|Avis Prestige Car Rental||London||4 (see main text)||0207 591 0444||www.avisprestige.com|
|Dream Car Hire||Faringdon, Oxon||1||0844 800 0195||www.dreamcarhire.com|