With the introduction of Uber and improvements being made to the country’s public transport, it might seem as if car renta; has a bleak future. As the industry braces itself for an increase in vehicle and parts prices, Avis Southern Africa’s Chief Executive Rainer Gottschick gives us his insights into the state of car rental in 2017.
Q: What is Avis doing to remain relevant to the modern-day car rental customer?
A: At Avis we put the customer at the heart of all that we do, so we will continuously review our processes, systems, products and the way we do things to ensure we exceed our customers’ expectations
Q: What impact has Uber had on your business in the last year?
A: Uber is both complimentary and a competitor to car rental. Traditional car rental is an average length of rental of approximately four-and-a-half days, depending on the segment of customer. This is not an Uber customer. Historically customers would have rented for one day where the public transport infrastructure was not reliable and some of these rentals may have shifted to Uber.
Q: A couple of years on, what are your thoughts on the integration of the Budget brand into the Avis stable?
A: The integration of Budget has aligned us with our principal Avis Budget Group globally and has been a success for us.
Q Which was your most popular class of car with corporate travellers in 2016, and why do you think this was so?
A: The Group B vehicle remains the vehicle of choice for our corporates as it offers value for money with key features such as air conditioning, airbags and ABS braking
Q: Which vehicles are Avis looking to add to its fleet this year?
A: At this point in time there is no new vehicles of importance that are being brought on fleet. In the last couple of months we have brought on fleet the Ford Mustang, the new Toyota Fortuner and the new BMW X3. An interesting development will be the addition of more car groups to our fleet which will enable more dedicated vehicles to car groups such as we currently have for Mercedes and BMW.
Q: How much of a demand are you seeing for in-car wi-fi?
A: There has been little demand for this product from the local market, but promising demand from international visitors.
Q: What are the major concerns for the car rental industry?
A: The car rental industry is facing above-CPI inflation on motor vehicle pricing. Based on this one would expect car rental rates to increase above inflation to keep track with the increase in costs. The other major challenge facing car rental is the increase in vehicle damages. The number of accidents on our roads is increasing and combined with the above-inflation increase in vehicle parts, damage is a major concern.
Q: Are there any trends in the industry, globally, that have caught your eye?
A: Connected cars, electric vehicles, driverless cars, Big Data and mobile. Being part of a global car rental group we are well positioned to timeously adopt these technologies as they become relevant to our market
Q: How is Avis using Big Data to its advantage?
A: The use of Big Data and its insights is the key to understanding our business and customers. We have just started the Big Data journey.
Q: What was the thinking behind launching a new website in 2016?
A: An enhanced customer experience that enables them to transact seamlessly with us on a personal computer and more importantly on any mobile device. The new site also brings to our Southern African customers the latest technology of our overseas principals so whether you go on to the Avis UK site, for example, or the new avis.co.za site the experience will be consistent and aligned.
Q: How far away are we from driver-less cars?
A: There are a lot of conflicting reports in the media globally around driver-less cars. It is definitely coming in the future. When it will be a commercially available and affordable product is the question.