IN A WORLD where global brands rule, there is a South African car rental company that is taking a wholly South African brand onto the world market. And its commitment to people – which is all that really differentiates one car rental company from another – is so great, that there was an in-house joke when they started that they had more staff than cars!
I met up with Bruce Barritt, MD of First Car Rental, at Indaba in Durban. First Car Rental is a subsidiary of Combined Motor Holdings (CMH Ltd) which is listed on the Johannesburg Stock Exchange.
While First Car Rental is a relative newcomer in comparison to their competition (having opened its doors in 1999 as the National & Alamo brands), Bruce Barritt has a 30-year track record in the car rental industry. Bruce Barritt ran the National Alamo franchise in SA for nine years – winning numerous awards as the best global franchise – until the National Alamo EMEA brands were sold to Europcar… South Africa was really a by-product of an International transaction – without much consideration & after First Car Rental (then National Alamo South Africa) paid R180 million in royalties.
But they had their own systems and a very loyal client base so the change to First Car Rental was smooth and their growth since then has been rapid.
His first passion in the company are the people because that’s what sets the company apart. “We have very committed people at First Car Rental – they are the lifeblood of the business. This is a people business,” he says. He expects everybody within his compliment of staff to make the customer’s experience hassle-free and memorable.
He is also committed to having the most user-friendly systems in the industry and their online systems are very, very good. They have been innovative, introducing a number of firsts in the local industry. The vision of wanting to move to a process where bar-coded vehicles and contracts replace the paper trail is more than 50% there, giving staff more time to interact with and get to know their customers. His biggest nightmare is losing the personal touch and not having direct and immediate contact with all FCR’s customers. “If something goes wrong, I want to pick up the phone and fix it,” he says.
The in-house joke about more staff than cars started when they rolled out their very impressive national footprint. You can rent a First Car Rental vehicle almost anywhere in SA.
The move to roll out the First Car Rental brand started in Mauritius and was followed by a former National Alamo franchisee in Malta who needed to be part of a international brand to keep his airport slot. A few other international franchisees are under consideration at the moment.
Increasing the revenue stream is less important than the marketing footprint of a global brand and it’s with some pride that Bruce says that this is the first time a South African car rental brand has gone international.
First Car Rental also has a servicing agreement with Sixt Rent a Car which is very strong in Germany and also has a presence throughout Europe, South America and the Asia-Pacific region.
They have just launched Direct Transfer, a chauffered service that picks you up and takes you from A to B. Click the link to check it out.
When CapeInfo started looking for a marketing partner and sponsor for Travels with Akela, FCR stood out as the most responsive, friendly and innovative. They are a delight to work with.
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