The current state of car rental: How Enterprise navigated the pandemic

It’s no secret that the travel industry has been having a hard time over the last year. While there has been no shortage of stories in the news highlighting the difficulties faced by companies during what was essentially a global shutdown, there has also been some peculiarities.

We’ve already identified how the car rental market saw a boost during the pandemic despite the restrictions on international travel. But for today, we wanted to explore exactly how this was possible – what these companies did to successfully navigate the pandemic.

That’s why we reached out to some of the biggest names in the car rental space to see how they not only coped but innovated their way through the pandemic.

With that said, here’s what Enterprise Rent-A-Car had to say.

How did Enterpise cope with Covid?

At the heart of our Covid response was an overnight shift from vehicle provision to mobility planning and design, so that we could deliver business continuity to corporates and the public sector.

Enterprise’s widespread neighborhood branch network and breadth of vehicle fleet gave us extensive on-the-ground resources to keep organizations mobile through lockdown, focusing on essential travel while our airport business went quiet.

In many locations, our airport branches became service hubs for local businesses as so many firms are located close to these international transport hubs.

Customers who had relied on us for their business travel were now focused on ground transportation. They brought us in to their disaster recovery and business continuity working groups to ensure that rental vehicles could empower businesses to ensure continuity despite travel restrictions, by evolving into a mobile or roadside model or adding home delivery.

Our innovation teams helped customers adapt vehicles, creating bespoke designs that were more effective during lockdown to ensure business continuity and keep people safe. We designed and built bespoke Covid testing vehicles and socially-distanced ‘pod buses’, and adapted vans to help mobile medical teams disinfect between patients.

We provided transport planning, identifying employees who would benefit from more long-term rental to ensure drivers didn’t have to change vehicles unnecessarily.

This was all underpinned by enhanced safety measures and a complete overhaul of our operational protocols to ensure renter peace of mind. Our Complete Clean Pledge (launched in May 2020) ensures all vehicles are thoroughly sanitized between each rental. In our branches, low-touch/no-touch rentals using our LaunchPad tablet technology were complemented by increased social distancing and curbside pick-ups.

Since the pandemic, has Enterprise noticed a change in clients’ behavior?

Our customer conversations now center around solutions: how Enterprise can provide mobility programs that help businesses and the public sector adapt to a constantly changing set of circumstances.

Health and safety are a new constant, with a requirement for more safe and controlled travel options that we anticipate will continue even when the pandemic is finally over. In many cases, that means moving away from shared spaces such as air and train and into dedicated personal vehicles where employees can create a ‘safe bubble’.

Customers had already been looking for more flexible solutions, even though vehicles are being retained longer, and for rental solutions that can be quickly changed or adapted as needs evolve. Businesses need to scale their fleets up and down much more rapidly than ever before and rental is emerging as the safe and cost-effective option.

Alongside, policy targets for emissions means there is increasing demand for advice on how best to meet the new requirements. This pre-dates the pandemic but has recently accelerated, due to an ever-growing awareness of the impact that more sustainable travel can make on climate change. Shared transport can provide an effective solution that supports employees while helping businesses to decarbonize.

Many customers are unsure about electric and alternative fuel vehicles, ways to reduce mileage, and how to redraft travel policies to encourage more sustainable employee behaviors.

How did Enterprise adapt to these new trends?

Consultancy is now key to many of our customer relationships. We work together to gather and assess data before we begin to design the right solution, and then devise or update the travel policy to ensure the right fit for today as well as the imminent future.

We continue to prioritize our business customers to ensure that they have access to the right vehicles in the right locations for the length of time necessary to ensure adequate and safe employee mobility.

Alongside, we have increased investment in alternative fuel vehicles and now operate PEV, PHEV, self-charging hybrid and hydrogen cell vehicles across Europe. We’re deploying this growing fleet in a series of public and corporate pilots and trials designed to accelerate a shift to zero-emission motoring.

We are working with customers on an individual basis to assess where electric and other fuel types can be most effective today. We facilitate access to vehicles to create pilot programs so that businesses can learn more about how best to use them.

This is a long-term process that requires dedicated planning. It examines employee mobility patterns and demand, which vehicle types and rental forms will be most appropriate, and to what extent vehicles can be shared – alongside other transport types – at multi-modal mobility hubs.

We are working with universities to create ‘mobility hubs’ that enable change and provide data on how multi-modal mobility can be used more effectively to reduce congestion, improve air quality and decarbonize travel.

Imperial College London partnered with us on a mobility hub to study how these initiatives can promote active travel and reduce the use of vehicles on campus, especially for commuting. Enterprise Car Club vehicles are also integral at the University of Warwick transport hub, enabling faculty members to hire cars, rent bikes or access bus and train services, all at the same place.

Investment in technology is key, especially to equip businesses and drivers with decision-making tools to ensure the best vehicle is chosen at each stage of the journey – or indeed if a journey is the best decision at the time.

Where does Enterprise stand on Mobility as a Service (MaaS)? Are there any recent or planned implementations of this model?

Our current MaaS projects and pilots are all focused on decarbonizing leisure and consumer travel by encouraging a shift to shared motoring, public transport and active travel, combined with providing incentives so that individuals owning much older polluting vehicles have access to better travel options.

Enterprise is the car rental partner for the ground-breaking GO-HI Mobility-as-a-Service (MaaS) project in the Highlands and Islands region of Scotland. Residents and tourists can book Enterprise Rent-A-Car and Enterprise Car Club vehicles through the easy-to-use GO-HI app, as well as access a range of other shared transport options across the region.

GO-HI provides instant access to information on buses, trains, taxis, car hire, car clubs, bicycle hire, air travel and ferries. This allows users to plan their journeys and then to select, book and pay for all modes of transport all in one place using any iOS or Android mobile device.

Changing times

Ultimately, Enterprise was able to survive through both resilience and adaption. Intuitively, you’d think that with less movement came less need for rental vehicles, but it seems that instead, they were able to identify new contexts and shift their focus to more viable use cases.

Client demand had a large say in this change in approach, or at least the change in emphasis in terms of their expectations of what travel should look like and the solutions they are looking for. Sustainability still remained a constant consideration however, which is reflected in how Enterprise went about its transformation.

Otherwise, the MaaS model also seems to be a key area of growth for the company, combining the aspects of convenience, sustainability and flexibility into one initiative. Enterprise clearly sees an opportunity here and so have added mobility as a service to its agenda.

The key takeaway? Travel is coming back, but it’s had a makeover. Expect mobility to be greener, safer and more flexible than ever before.

Thank you to Enterprise for taking part!

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