In a packed-to-the-brim ballroom at the Paris Las Vegas, Europcar executives addressed a crowd surpassing 800 car rental professionals for an exclusive, inside look at the company’s expansion plans into the U.S. for the show’s opening keynote.
Enter Fox Rent A Car
But first came a major announcement and a tribute. Heard first at the 2022 International Car Rental Show, attendees learned that Fox Rent A Car Co-Founders Mike Jaberi and Allen Rezapour would be stepping down and handing their keys over to Europcar. The change comes on July 1, after 30 years of business under the Fox brand.
Europcar Mobility Group named Gerardo Bermejo as the new managing director for the U.S., who will succeed Jaberi and Rezapour. The move becomes a key part of Europcar’s strategy for its U.S expansion.
“I don't want to start without saying a word for my new friends, because they will be forever the founders of this company,” Jaberi said. “I'm really grateful to say that we'll have them with us during the rest of the year, driving the company and becoming the new big player into the rental car industry in this market.”
Europcar Business Overview
Europcar started in 1949 under the vision of Raoul-Louis Mattei and is headquartered in France. “As a business, we started out with a motto that says, ‘If you can't afford to buy a car, then why not rent one when you need it,’” Gary Smith, chief countries officer, said. “That was 70 years ago, and that statement holds completely true today.”
The group as we know it today has a purpose to offer attractive alternatives to vehicle ownership in a responsible and sustainable way. It does this through four core brands.
“My opinion is vehicle ownership is going to change dramatically over the next five to 10 years,” Smith said. “People are not going to want to tie up so much of their hard-earned cash in an asset that sits for 90% of the time. Statistics have been done that identify that a car moves somewhere between 5 and 10% of its time. And that's ridiculous; why would you want to put $10,000 or $30,000 into an asset that is hardly going to move. That's why we think we need to create alternatives to vehicle ownership.”
Europcar currently operates in more than 140 counties with around 10,000 employees and 232,000 vehicles in its fleet. About 23% of its stations are in airports, with the rest in downtown and railway locations. Smith said it has a 29% share in Europe.
Over 4,000 of Europcar’s fleet vehicles are EVs and PHEVs. But, “that's not good enough, and that will change,” Smith noted. “We have a pledge that will move that percentage of these vehicles significantly higher, but the customer and the infrastructure needs to be ready. And at the moment, it’s not quite as ready as we would like it.”
A New Strategy
Bermejo and Smith presented on Europcar Mobility Group’s new “Connect” strategy to become a major player in flexible, sustainable, digital, and connected mobility, and outlined the following four pillars.
- Flexible: Bringing flexibility to clients’ fleets, businesses, and travel modes, with flexible subscription formulas, flexible terms, and conditions.
- Sustainable: Making rental more attractive than ownership, offering more and more “green” (electric, plug-in hybrid) vehicles to the fleet.
- Digital: Enabling contactless and hassle-free customer journeys, from booking to pickup.
- Connected: Direct access to vehicles’ data allowing operational excellence and enhanced customer experience.
These pillars will be achieved through its Flex subscription offers; “One Sustainable Fleet” program that aims to have 20% green vehicles by the end of 2024 as well as its partnership with Shell Recharge; contactless vehicles access; connected vehicle programs with a goal for 100% of its fleet to be connected by the end of 2023, and work with partners like Geotab, Telefonica, Free2move, and Stellantis; and mobile apps.
“On a sustainability front, we know that as an owner of thousands upon thousands of cars, we contribute to the carbon footprint, and we want to provide a solution to how we get to a lower carbon world,” Smith explained. “And then we want to make sure that we can provide an integral part of everybody's value chains so that we can help drive economic development.”
Kicking off the #icrs2022 keynote is Europcar on its U.S. expansion plans and company vision. Responsibility, sustainability, and alternatives to vehicle ownership are just a few things it's working on. pic.twitter.com/XgGheVzZet— Auto Rental News (@AutoRentalNews) April 25, 2022
Smith also announced a permanent focus on safety and customer satisfaction through a partnership with Bureau Veritas, complying with health authorities’ safety recommendations and use of the Net Promoter Score.
Plans for the U.S.
Europcar identified the U.S. as a key market for its global expansion going back to about 2018. “Quite simply, you can't be a global player if you aren't in the U.S.; it’s the world's biggest vehicle rental market,” Smith said. “But it offers us with huge opportunities in terms of inbound and outbound flows and strong opportunities for growth.”
The group’s “all in” approach with Fox Rent A Car for its U.S. business is based on several criteria, including its status as leading independent player with presence in 15 of the top 25 U.S. airports, 21 stations and 100+ affiliates, a track record of organic growth, a founders-owned and operated business, unique opportunity to serve all the mobility needs of customers, and value potential.
It’s worth noting that though Jaberi and Rezapour are no longer at the helm of Fox, both intend to remain involved in the new era of operations. In fact, Fox achieved a record year in 2021 and emerged stronger from COVID-19. Smith said they wanted to be sure they stayed on through the acquisition so that Europcar didn’t try to overlay a European perception on the U.S market, “because frankly that would have been a disaster.”
Doubling down on its use of Net Promoter Score — which has seen significant upward trends over the last few years — Bermejo explained that the group will focus on wait time, cleanliness, and rental check out, with adjusted vehicle utilization goals, real-time monitoring and agent incentive programs, and strengthened team effort across all departments.
“The real question behind NPS is, what is the customer's belief about us,” Jaberi said. “This is our target, to be close to customers, because they are the ones making us bigger, stronger, and larger in this industry. We need to take care of them, we need to listen to them, and we need to take real action according to what they tell us.”
Bermejo also outlined integration plans for leisure and business segments, with goals to bring Europcar’s brand to leisure customers in the U.S. while offering a premium brand and customer journey, improve b2b sales through a larger network, provide service to global corporate accounts with the same level of quality as in Europe, activate international GSAs to drive additional inbound revenue, and execute domestic GSAs to diversify its portfolio.
“We're not Fox Rent A Car here as a company anymore, we are Europcar Mobility Group USA using Fox as one of our brands,” Bermejo explained. “But now that we are a group, we are larger, we are stronger, and we need to integrate different strategies across the country and across our service.”
Watch out for the new player on the block, because Fox and Europcar co-branded locations will be coming soon to the U.S. this year.