The car manufacturing industry reflects this with the ever-increasing number of niches regularly being created and filled.
And for many fleet drivers, one type of vehicle just cannot fulfil all their requirements. An employee who normally requires a small car to travel from A to B might, on occasion, need a huge boot to haul equipment around.
Conversely, a single man lugging products around during the week might be left with a vast, empty and fuel-guzzling MPV at the weekend when all he needs to transport is himself.
With this kind of problem in mind, the rental industry is looking to add new flexibility to short to medium-term rentals. The idea is that customers will soon be able to rent vehicles for a particular period, as they can now, but will be able to change that vehicle according to the usage or journey they need to make at a particular time.
Lorraine Farnon (pictured), divisional vice president and UK sales director for National Car Rental, says the idea is still in development and the detail being fine-tuned, but is able to give a broad idea of what the product will offer.
‘The proposition has developed from the increasing demand we have seen in longer-term rental solutions, from 28 days up to six months or longer, that give businesses the flexibility to cope with circumstances such as seasonal demands, short-term contracts, new starters and so on,’ she says.
‘We saw an opportunity to take this a stage further and offer customers the chance to rent vehicles for 28 days or longer from specific groups, with the option to change the vehicle as often as they wish during the rental period, probably after the first 28 days.
This will give the driver the flexibility to choose a vehicle according to the journey or other requirements. They will also have the opportunity to upgrade if they wish to a higher group or a prestige vehicle at an extra cost.’
National believes it is in a good position to offer such a service, as its fleets covers a wide range of cars, vans and also luxury vehicles through its luxury arm Guy Salmon Prestige Rental.
‘We all face different demands on our lives and this product allows drivers to choose vehicles fit for the purpose,’ explains Farnon.
‘It could be a workhorse in the week that provides fuel efficiency and comfort for longer business journeys, a van for the occasional trip to deliver goods to a customer, or an MPV for a family trip at the weekend or for a holiday.’
As with other rental solutions, this flexible product would take away some of the hassle and associated costs of outright ownership, and National sees a big opportunity for businesses to offer it to cash-for-car takers.
‘We also see an opportunity in the small business arena,’ Farnon says. ‘Tradesmen in particular will be a good market for this product as they may need a van for most of the time but occasionally need a car for the weekend.
‘The vehicles would all be serviced, maintained and covered by roadside assistance so that’s all taken care of.’
National plans to launch the flexible product in the UK first and will then gauge the reaction to it ahead of a possible international roll-out.
The option will be part of a specific package priced separately from traditional rental solutions.
‘It is still early days but given the focus on green transport this could be one solution that gives more flexibility over the vehicles used for business and leisure travel to help cut emissions,’ Farnon says.
At a glance
THE rental industry is looking at ways to increase flexibility for its customers, which could see them using different kinds of vehicles depending on their needs and circumstances, such as (from top), a convertible, a van, an estate or a city car.