Car rental companies have lasted many recessions and even the great depression in the United States during their history. Even so, the current economic climate has worried some in the industry, to the extent that some of the larger car hire firms are in fact axing jobs and securing fleets in new and interesting ways. Additionally, the current financial difficulties are dramatically changing the habits of customers.
One of the most reveling trends has been the shift in customers who now prefer to utilize smaller vehicles rather than larger ones. The trend is wholly understandable as home budgets are restricted and the proverbial belts are tightened. Fundamentally customers are now choosing compact vehicles over executive saloons. One of the largest reasons is clearly the increase in fuel prices worldwide, typically these smaller hire cars are more fuel efficient and hence renters are choosing them as a more cost-effective way to travel.
It is not just the types of vehicles that are chosen that is changing in the car rental industry. Increasingly customers are being far more frugal and spending a great deal of time trawling the internet for special offers and discounted rates.
The problem for car rental companies is that as the demand for smaller vehicles increases the existing fleets are found wanting when it comes to supplying every customer with the car they want. In the past rental fleets have had to meet the needs of different customers by supplying a range of cars for nearly any purpose. The trend for customers wanting smaller cars, however, has meant that some fleets are simply inadequate for the purpose, particularly at times when demand is high such as over Christmas or other national holidays. The challenge for car hire companies is to ensure that their fleets are filled with enough compact cars.
This is not the only strategy that can be adopted, however. Fleets are expensive to purchase and hence heading out and buying smaller vehicles wholesale is not always an option. One of the ways companies can cope with this increased demand is to offer special deals on larger models; whilst the fuel economy will still be an issue, for some customers that may not be travelling a great deal of distance this could be a preferred option, allowing increased comfort at the expense of a higher fuel bill.
Fuel efficiency has become an increasingly important issue for many companies. Another strategy being employed is to incorporate vehicles into fleets that have greater levels of fuel economy. This has meant some companies have even embarked upon a process of introducing hybrid cars such as Toyota's Prius. Cars such as this have become extremely popular with customers and hence if there is demand there for such a service, companies will see the opportunity to supply customers with what they want. Additionally, this can be seen as a response to demands for eco-tourism across the travel industry as a whole.
This article has hoped to highlight some of the customer trends in the car rental industry. As economic circumstances apparently worsen it is undoubtedly true that companies will have to do more to court customers, whether this means reducing rates, increasing the number of special offers or even including more fuel efficient cars in fleets is down to marketing strategy. What is certain is that forward thinking strategies will be needed if prosperity is to continue.