Finding a good local short-term rental provider can be an issue for many businesses. The easy option is to source from one of the large national providers but access to them can be dependent on where your business is based. While firms in large conurbations can often cherry pick their provider, those located elsewhere can struggle. Also, while the national providers are able to offer a good cross section of vehicles, can they offer the bespoke service you require for business-specific mobility needs?
For SMEs the logical place to source rental vehicles for staff should be their local car dealers. Indeed, in the US dealers will typically have a dedicated rental desk, often manned by implant staff from the big national daily rental companies.
The concept has never really taken off in the UK. The latest to try it is Kia, which has come up with a business model which it thinks will appeal to local firms. Its approach is low key, with the service initially only available through a select number of sites, but it is scalable and will be rolled out if it is successful.
The move shows the brand's commitment to growing the fleet side of its business.
Under Kia Rental, 12 sites will offer business customers a flexible package enabling them to hire new cars, across its full range.
With the participating dealers not planning to keep the vehicles for long on their fleets, customers will effectively enjoy a new car driving experience each and every time with vehicles prepared and maintained to main dealer standards. Something that cannot be said of some of the big specialist players whose cars can age quickly through high volume usage.
The programme was trialled earlier in the year by Triangle of Chesterfield, which was chosen as it had already established a strong local reputation for its fleet service.
‘Many of the businesses using Kia Rental have said that if our quality of service is as strong as that of our fleet sales, they would prefer to come to us as it outperforms other providers,’ said managing director, David Dench.
John Hargreaves, head of fleet and remarketing at Kia, said the rental programme had already struck a chord with customers.
‘Kia Rental has had a positive start: we’ve even had one rental customer who was so impressed with the car he came back and bought it. The overriding feedback from customers has been that service, not price, counts. Kia Rental reflects a grown-up attitude to business’ fleet needs.’
Hargreaves confirmed that Kia hopes to expand the service although it will not be offered by all dealers.
‘We do not expect to have all the dealers operating the rental programme as, quite simply, not all territories would have enough opportunity to make it viable. We do expect the numbers to grow, possibly to about 20 dealers by the end of 2015 which we intend to spread in such a way that we maximise geographical coverage.’
Importantly the programme is a clear statement of intent from Kia as it looks at ways of increasing its local fleet business.
‘Local fleet represents a sizeable market opportunity which is often understated when local fleets choose to contract hire their cars which means they are registered both off territory and also appear in the large fleet category of the official statistics.’
Kia has been actively targeting this sector for some years having partnered with ALD Automotive to offer its Kia Contract Hire package to fleet managers and user-choosers through its entire dealer network.
Furthermore dealers are set fleet targets to encourage them to build lasting relationships with local SMEs.
‘We include a significant fleet content within the targets of all our dealers and they need to perform well in this area to reach their objectives.
‘We would expect all our dealers to have the basic competencies to handle a local business enquiry without the need to have dedicated staff. All dealers are trained on the use of the Kia contract hire system and all have a basic knowledge of the various methods of vehicle funding. At the next level up, we have a Business Specialist Dealer programme which does require the employment and training of a dedicated fleet specialist.’
As a highly successful retail brand Kia has worked hard to deliver a consistently high level of customer service across its dealer network. This, together with its comprehensive vehicle range, should make it ideally placed to offer a compelling fleet rental service.