Car rental franchising has a new player in the U.S. — U.K.-based Right Cars will launch officially at Miami International Airport on Sept. 6, followed by Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport on Oct. 18.
The company is planning franchised branch openings serving Dallas International Airport and San Antonio Airport as well as San Diego and San Francisco by the end of the year, said Rick Little, Right Cars co-founder and chairman.
Right Cars was birthed from a family-owned car rental business that operated at London’s Gatwick Airport for 18 years. “My customer database grew quickly through strong customer service and word of mouth,” said Karl Taylor, co-founder and managing director of Right Cars. “And then we had people asking us if we rent cars in Cyprus.”
But word of mouth only goes so far today. So what drove a small independent to go global through franchising? The genesis was when Little met Taylor 12 years ago.
“I rented cars from Karl,” said Little, who retired as an IT consultant for the banking and travel industry and then wrote software for Taylor’s company. “He told me that his large base of regular customers was slowly diminishing. As a small car rental company, he didn’t have the technology or the funds to invest in the major travel networks. We realized there must be small, family-run car rental businesses around the world in the same situation as Karl.”
The brand commenced franchising in 2012. Today, the company has franchise partners running 140 locations in 23 countries, from Croatia, Iceland, and New Zealand, to Mexico, Morocco, and United Arab Emirates. India is next, and the company is talking to Chinese partners, Little said.
The Big Idea
According to Little, the idea is to “bring small, family-owned car rental businesses together in one big brand.”
For franchises, Right Cars is targeting smaller rental companies “who don’t have a high advertising budget and don’t have the IT skills,” Little said.
But those companies should make up for a lack of technology understanding through other attributes. The ideal franchisee will have good customer service skills, an entrepreneurial attitude, and deal well under pressure, Taylor said. Right Cars will also work with companies that may have been part of another franchise network but struggled to expand.
“Right Cars brings a quick, easy solution at a reasonable price,” Taylor said. “These small companies can join the Right Cars brand and get access to a service where they can compete with the larger rental companies.”
Right Cars connects to several online brokers such as CarTrawler and Expedia Europe, with a connection to Expedia in the U.S. launching later this year. Little claims Right Cars operates the fastest XML connectivity in the industry: “We deliver price requests in less than a quarter of a second on average,” he said.
Taylor is working to bring his family-oriented business principles to the franchise network. “If one branch is not performing very well, then other franchisee owners will help out,” he said. “We even had a franchisee fly to another franchise location to try to help out the owner.”
Right Cars holds an annual franchise convention; this year it’s in Morocco, and an Expedia representative is scheduled to speak. The Right Cars executive team will meet potential franchisees during the Miami opening on Sept. 6.
While some of the companies Right Cars seeks may start small, they’ll be asked to go big as a franchise. “We expect a new branch to grow to have a minimum of 200 new cars,” Taylor said.
The company has partnered with an investment company that will fund fleet, as well as a multinational vehicle lessor that operates in the U.S. and will lease to U.S. franchisees using Right Cars’ buying power.
“[These partnerships] have given us the resources to offer new vehicles at good prices to anyone who joins the Right Cars brand,” Little said. “We have the potential to introduce 10,000 vehicles into the state of Florida within 12 months.”