In Germany, the name Sixt is associated with one thing—car rental. The brand is so ingrained in German culture that Germans say “S as in Sixt” when verbally spelling a word, as Americans say “X as in Xerox.”
Sixt AG is the fourth largest vehicle rental company in Europe and by far the largest in Germany and Austria. Sixt’s marketing tagline, “the global provider of high-quality mobility services,” encompasses not only car rental but the company’s other revenue streams: full-service leasing and a limousine service. And it speaks to its global reach. Including its franchisees and partners, Sixt is now represented in more than 85 countries at 3,500 service points.
ARN reached Regine Sixt, senior vice president, marketing and sales, and wife of CEO Erich Sixt, at the company headquarters to understand Sixt’s business model, the European car rental market and Sixt’s goals for the future.
A Global Provider
The venerable car rental agency is in the midst of a growth spurt.
Founded in 1912 by Martin Sixt with seven vehicles in downtown Munich, the Sixt Group generated revenue of EUR 1.4 billion in 2006. In the first half of 2007, operating revenue was up 10.1 percent, and profits before taxes grew even faster, at 13.3 percent. In Europe, Sixt has managed to grow faster than the overall market.
Yet the biggest growth has been through franchise agreements off the continent. In the last few years, Sixt has launched franchise operations in Algeria, Argentina, Australia, Bahrain, Chile, China, Costa Rica, India, Mongolia, Moldova, Pakistan and Singapore.
One might wonder what an established brand is doing in locations as exotic and far-flung as Moldova and Mongolia.
“I cannot call myself a global provider if I’m not global,” says Regine Sixt. “It’s becoming hard to grow further in Germany. We have a market share at the airport as great as 40 percent, so to grow we have to be in other countries.”
Last year Sixt opened four offices in India with a domestic partner and this year began franchise operations in China after overcoming considerable regulatory hurdles. Sixt China already has contracts with international companies such as Siemens and Hitachi. Sixt is looking to grow its Chinese fleet to 10,000 vehicles within five years.
Managing the myriad of laws and regulations within Europe is one thing, but how does Sixt do it globally?
“One of the reasons why we work with a very tight network of franchise partners is that it enables us to be closer to the market place, utilize the local know-how and follow regional laws,” Sixt says.
The Internet has made the business world easier to manage, though the company maintains regular face-to-face communication with franchise partners through summit meetings in a global region.