As affiliate programs are growing and becoming more popular, new players offering independent car rental companies reservation traffic from OTAs like Expedia and Priceline are entering the space. And one Toronto-based international rental company dove headfirst into offering its own affiliate model.
While York Car Rental has been around since 2008, its affiliate program is just about 2 years old. The business itself was started by Michael Fathi and his father, and is still a family-oriented operation today.
York’s first U.S. affiliate location opened in Florida (with one already in Vancouver), a second corporate location at Denver International Airport has its grand opening planned for March 1, and Nashville, Las Vegas, Salt Lake City, Phoenix, Chicago O'Hare, Dallas Fort Worth, and Reston Virginia, airport locations will follow by the end of 2023 or Q1 2024. The company has its sights set on growing internationally, too. It is connecting soon with the U.K., Mexico, Australia, New Zealand, Thailand, Cyprus, Malta, Turkey, and Romania, plus additional locations in Canada and the U.S.
Current licensees include:
- Athens International Airport
- Corfu International Airport
- Dubai City
- Dubai International Airport
- Fort Lauderdale International Airport
- Juan Santa Maria International Airport Costa Rica
- La Romana International Airport Dominican Rep
- Miami Beach
- Miami International Airport
- Orlando International Airport
- Princess Juliana International Airport
- Punta Cana International Airport
- Tampa International Airport
- Uvita City
- Vancouver International Airport
York Car Rental currently runs both short- and long-term airport rentals out of 24 locations across nine countries, with 5,000 vehicles in its fleet. The team at York also operates Hub Rent a Car, which is focused on EVs, SUVs, and vans. The two different labels — York and Hub — offer operators a way to choose a model and fleet specialty that works for them.
A Focus on Customer Service & Transparency
So, what sets York’s affiliate program apart? According to Jeff Wedemire, commercial director, it comes down to customer service. He makes sure to get on the phone with each affiliate prospect to vet them and form a positive connection as step one. York believes in transparent operations, and they look for like-minded people who share the same values of operating ethically and professionally so that customer service never falls by the wayside.
“I learned that a healthy workplace facilitates high-quality products and services in our industry,” Fathi said. “We invest a lot in our team for them to work in an environment that is honest and encouraging. I believe that the center point of any car rental operation must be to deliver a fast, efficient, and stress-free experience to the customer.”
“Michael has one of the best customer service indexes in all of Toronto,” Wedemire added. “Toronto is notorious for having bad customer service because of insurance issues. A lot of companies say, ‘Oh, you don’t have to take our insurance,’ but when you get to the counter, guess what? It’s mandatory.”
To change that perception, York has turned it the other way around, with as much transparency as possible from the get-go and no surprises. This applies to the relationship between York and its affiliates, as well as with the affiliates and their customers.
While York hasn’t gone fully contactless yet, it has implemented fast and easy online check-in. And a soon-to-come new POS will offer contactless and real-time vehicle selection functionality. Additionally, a new connectivity feature will allow employees to remain engaged with customers if they require help during check-out and check-in, Fathi shared.
The Pricing Difference
The other key, Wedemire says, is that York offers “far and away the best pricing structure I’ve ever seen.” York connects with top-tier OTAs and major GDS’s worldwide, which allows them to be dollars less on reservation fees.
Wedemire says York is also three or four percentage points lower than other major affiliate companies on commission fees, and has zero monthly fees, as well as no setup fees. “We are trying to make this as user-friendly for everyone to join us,” he said.
Market Observations in Canada
While most in the U.S. are feeling slow signs of supply recovery and vehicle availability, Canada has been slower and hasn’t seen the same return to normal. Most there say it will be 2024 before the strain alleviates. To make the best of the situation, that’s where having strong dealer relationships becomes key.
“It’s a topsy turvy world in North America,” Wedemire said.
Another strategy Wedemire believes in is what he calls “triangles” — having three different locations within a 1,000-kilometer (or 621-mile) range and doing one-way business throughout them. In the western side of Canada, this is done in Calgary, Vancouver, and Edmonton.
How are EVs faring up north? “It’s patchy,” according to Wedemire. Some cities have put in multiple charging stations and infrastructure to support electric vehicles while consumers in other areas of the country are resisting the transition.
York is gearing up for a zero-emission future, though. “We are very excited about the EV chapter,” Fathi said. “There are still a lot of doubts for customers when it comes down to renting an EV, anywhere from the range, functionality, and charging challenges. Due to Canada’s rough weather conditions, York has successfully adapted itself to these needs by shifting its fleet to SUVs and minivans.”
Fathi’s vision is to become the leader in car rental technology with the DNA of a traditional agency, he says. The company’s 2023 initiative is to launch York at six major U.S. airports while offering a low-cost affiliate program with lots of possibilities and flexibilities for experienced owners and operators.