It is my pleasure to post the first blog from the Fleet department at Avis UK. As the Fleet Director, I have responsibility for the buying and selling of all the cars that our customers rent. The supply of cars is a topic that generates a lot of interest from all our customers and staff. Many have been asking questions such as:

- Why does Avis have particular manufacturers and not others
- Why are only some models of cars available and not others? (e.g. we have the Peugeot 207 but not the 107)
- Why can’t I always get a diesel?
- When will Avis be getting new models on fleet such as the new Ford Mondeo?
- When will we be introducing a “Green fleet”?

Over the next few months, my team and I hope to address most, if not all, of these questions. However, in my first blog, I’d like to share with you a simple summary of how we choose the cars that we take on fleet.

The starting point is our customers. I work very closely with our sales and marketing teams to understand what type of cars our customers want. The car market has expanded enormously to cars of every shape and size and we need to put together a fleet that meets our customer’s requirements and expectations. Our customers want a straightforward and clear choice that starts with the size of our cars (how many people, how much luggage etc) and then expands to recognise customers desire for different levels of comfort (engine size, premium brands, convertibles). This choice has recently extended to guaranteeing certain Select Series models (e.g. VW Golf and the Audi A4 and A6) which are listed on our website. We also need to ensure that all our cars are supplied safe, clean and reliable as well as being available at a competitive price.

We then work very closely with the manufacturers and other suppliers to source the required cars. The most cost effective way of providing these cars is buying new cars and then holding them for a limited period (generally up to 12 months). This ensures that we provide the safest and most reliable cars. However, we are only able to buy cars that the manufacturers want to see sold as “nearly new” as all our cars are sold again either by the manufacturer or Avis after less than 12 months. This explains the reason behind the variation in makes and models that our customers experience.

While our primary focus is ensuring that our customers are able to get a car that meets their expectations, we also have to buy a mixture of make, model and specifications to ensure that we have the right fleet for our final customer – the buyer of the nearly new car. The result, we intend, is that we will always meet our customers expectations in terms of the car group booked but often we will exceed, even delight, with higher specifications. We are only able to guarantee the higher expectation, though, if the higher car group or Select Series cars are booked.

I look forward to sharing more details with you on how our fleet is developing next month (as an example I am delighted to welcome Citroen’s award winning C4 Grand Picasso on fleet in the next few weeks).

Please keep your questions coming in.

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21 Responses to “Inside look: How we choose our cars”

  1. Robert Says:

    Thank you Paul,
    enjoyed reading that and
    I’m sure we all look forward to hearing more from you about the fleet.
    I have posted on the blog previous how awful I think the VW 1.9 Diesel engines are.
    They are an old designed engine, cheap, noisy, sluggish, and unrefined.
    The 2.0 TDI is in a different league, and the news I heard from Rob about a plan to change the Passats to the 2.0, is great!
    Perhaps you would consider a slightly higher spec car as well?
    The current 1.9 Passat’s and Jetta’s you have are a little cheap inside.
    Cheap plastic steering wheel, and a bit of a cheap interior.
    I also look forward to hearing some news about the new Mondeo!
    (The link in your post is to the old model, by the way…)

    Thanks!

    Robert

  2. Robert White- Marketing, Avis UK Says:

    Hi Robert, me again!

    I know Paul is very busy (we’ve currently brought him in as an occasional guest blogger) so to ensure you get a response to this I thought I’d jump in. Actually Paul gave the Marketing team an overview on Friday to explain why we bring in the cars we do and the challenges the fleet team face so it is all very fresh in my mind!

    I think the main challenge against us being able to make some of your suggestions a reality relates to the main point that Paul was making in his blog post. Our ability to offer a good car hire price to our customers greatly depends on our ability to move ours cars on at a good price when its lifetime as a hire car is finished i.e. moving our ex-hire cars on at a good price means that the cost impact of our fleet is less and so we can pass this on to the customer.

    The price that we can move that car on at is largely determined by a bit of simple supply and demand. If in a years time there is likely to be an excess of year old Ford Fiesta Style Climate on the market and not enough Ford Fiesta Zetec Climate on the market then, if we have the opportunity, we are more likely to bring in the Zetec Climate as we can be more confident about moving it on at a good price. In this example, this is good for our customers as a Zetec Climate is a higher spec but it could easily be the other way around. The same logic applies to the interior spec of the car and some of the extras we get with it. As I’m sure you can imagine, this is a very tough challenge to get right and something I’m sure Paul will elaborate on further in one of his future blog posts (next post planned in August).

    As Paul intimated, part of our responsibility in the Marketing team is to champion the customer’s corner and ensure that the fleet team is taking the customer’s wants and needs into account when making their purchasing decision. This is very important to us as one of our most important measures of success is the question “Would you recommend Avis to a friend?” and we know that the customer’s expectation of the spec of the car she/he receives and what she/he actually gets can impact this measurement.

    Of course it helps our argument if we can get a substantial amount of feedback to indicate whether having a higher spec of car (either in performance or interior) on our fleet would encourage customers to pay a little extra for their rental to justify the added cost. I think the points you have raised represents an opportunity for all of our customers to have their input and I would encourage anyone to post their opinion about how important the spec of car is as part of their rental experience. This includes the kind of “extras” customers would like to see in their hire car as we will probably have a little more flexibility on this. The more comments we get, the more compelling our argument becomes with the fleet team (although I must stress that even the most comprehensive feedback may not bear fruit as other factors involved make it difficult, sometimes impossible, to make certain requests become a reality).

    Robert – sorry for the long winded explanation and I hope this answers your question. Any further input/feedback you can give us on this would be much appreciated and if you know anyone else who is a car hire customer then we would love to hear their views on this too!

    PS – good catch on the Ford Mondeo link by the way. It was my fault as I posted this on Paul’s behalf. It’s been corrected now.

  3. Robert Says:

    Cheers for that Paul! :-)

  4. Robert Says:

    Sorry, I meant Rob! :-) :-) :-)

    Too many Rob’s (including myself…) and Paul’s around…
    And I met Paul the LHR manager yesterday!

  5. Colin Wilson Says:

    After carefully selecting my vehicle choice from Avis, an A3 Audi Sportback from an apparent choice of 1 on the Avis website I found on arrival that I had no choice but a Fiat Croma. Hardly the same car, the choice today on the website and alternatives are BMW 1 series Mercedes B class and A3 Sportback. I wasn’t happy and expressed it clearly and was told there were no more cars. I wasn’t shown how to operate the controls, had to sign for its condition in a pitch black car park and frankly, felt totally unhappy. I was charged in sterling, not euros, was not given the choice and had a petrol car, not a preferred diesel. Considering the advance notice of the hire and the fact a BMW had been allocated but removed at the last minute the whole thing was a bad experience. The Berlin Budapester Str. outlet did not have the car ready and when I expressed the view I felt inclined to change my car hire company they didn’t care and more or less said so. I’m a regular user and am very disappointed with Avis and their car selection.

  6. Robert White- Marketing, Avis UK Says:

    Colin, I apologise that your recent rental was not to satisfaction. Would you be able to email your Rental Agreement number to comments@avis.co.uk and we will take a look at this case for you.

  7. Francis Deigman Says:

    With regard to Colin Wilson’s comments above, I have to say that i TOTALLY agree with his remarks about getting the right vehicle. I moved over to AVIS from Hertz because of this problem and now find that AVIS is the same. I often get deisil when I want petrol and automatic when I want manual. Like Colin I give plenty notice with my booking and on occasion have had to wait for my car.
    The other gripe I have is with the AVIS Preferred desk. It is not always manned (or womanned) and Sweden is the worst offender in this respect.
    There are too many choices out there, and if I want cheap and cheerful it is to go the competition.

  8. Robert Says:

    Hello Francis,
    In regards to your comments, you should rent in the UK; there isn’t much danger of getting an Auto when wanting a Manuel… :-)

    As to the type of fuel, I (and others I know) actually much prefer getting a diesel.
    Costs are going to be lower as you will end up having to fill up the car very rarely!

    As to the ‘preferred’ desk, isn’t the whole point of having a preferred card, not having to need a desk, and having the car waiting for you?
    But then again, I guess it’s not the same everywhere…

  9. Richard White Says:

    FAO Robert White

    Agree totally with Colin Wilsons comments. Very poor service. Ask for a diesel get a petrol – very difficult to change unless you ring every depot in the UK – SORT IT OUT.

  10. Xavier Vallee - Head of Marketing, Avis UK Says:

    Hello Richard,

    Thanks for your feedback, we will look into how we can make that available.

    Just to give you some explaination and insights: It is very difficult for operational reasons to guarantee a car by type of fuel today, except on some very specific models like Audis and Mercedes. It’s really because of the number of petrol v diesel in each car category.

    Let us know if there are others things that you’d like Avis to improve and make available. I can’t promise we’ll do everything only that we’ll look into every single question or suggestion that we get.

    This blog is there so these discussions can take place and ideas can be exchanged!

  11. Rob White- Marketing, Avis UK Says:

    Hi Richard, I completely agree that it would be great to have the choice to specify either a petrol and a diesel. However, the issue at the moment is that manufacturers do not necessarily want to give us diesels (they are more expensive to manufacture than a petrol) and therefore our diesel fleet is much smaller than our petrol fleet. If we were to offer a category that allows you to guarantee a diesel we would need to make sure that we have enough cars available to fulfil this promise.

    Take this for example. Imagine we have 300 diesel cars in a particular category on our fleet that is spread across 120 locations. A diesel booking comes in 4 months in advance to be picked up at Norwich Airport. Having booked so far in advance this customer is clearly going to expect a diesel car. On the week this rental is due to go out a customer rents the diesel but it is a one way rental. It is a customer who has turned up unexpectedly and, for contractual obligations, we are not allowed to turn it down. Norwich airport ends up with no diesel cars. To source another one the rental office would have to travel to either Peterborough or Ipswich which is a 160 mile round trip. Given that this would take 2 of our staff to do this then this would be costly both in the travel expenses and the staff time out as well as the impact on customer satisfaction at the potentially understaffed rental office in Norwich (unless we bring in extra staff which is more cost). Scale this example across the country and this would end up adding significantly more cost to the business hindering our ability to offer a competitive price to our customers. Either that or we have lots of angry customers because we couldn’t get them the diesel they had booked! :(

    I completely agree that it would be great to offer petrol and diesel choice and I promise we are looking into it. However, we need to make sure that if we do offer this then we have the ability to meet our promises. For now, we make no promises to our customers that we are able to guarantee a petrol or diesel (unless you book one of the VWs or Audis on Select Series which are all diesels). However, our staff will try to give you one if there is one available if you were to request this at the rental counter.

    I really appreciate this kind of feedback so please, please keep it coming as these comments genuinely influence how we look to develop our products and service.

    Rob

  12. Richard White Says:

    Thanks for the feedback – Please contact me so we can arrange cancellation of my agreement. I have been hiring cars from you since April and you team ring every two weeks for a mileage update so you know what car I want/when it will need changing. I had a VW Golf already so why not pick me another one to ensure I get the diesel I wanted if its that simple? It seems as though your customer service stops once you have given me a vehicle. Almost two weeks on and no diesels have become available………..

    Another example – When you claim missing clubcard points you get an automated response (Thank You for claiming your missing miles/points with Avis online.
    An e-mail will be sent to you confirming your details and the status of
    your missing miles/points within 72 hours.
    The rental agreement number xxxxxxxx is the Reference number for your
    claim.) However im still waiting for a reply 2 months on

  13. Rob White - Marketing, Avis UK Says:

    Hi Richard, I’m sorry you have not received the level of service you expect from us. Would you be able to email at comments@avis.co.uk with your rental agreement number and we will take a look at this for you.

    Rob

  14. Richard White Says:

    Rob – emailed you as requested to the above address.Still no reply over a month on. No need to investigate this any more, as my business has made the decision to rent vehicles from another source come january. thanks Richard.

  15. Rob White- Marketing, Avis UK Says:

    Hi Richard, I’m really sorry that no one has got back to you on this. I respect your decision but I will chase up on the status of this query regardless as this should not happen.

    Rob

  16. Lindsey Ahern Says:

    I agree with the above,I have recieved shocking service.When the staff relise you are a corperate customer all service and help goes out the window and usally end up in the worst cars.

  17. Stephen Spiers - Customer Service, Avis UK Says:

    Hi Lindsey,

    I am disappointed that we did not deliver the service you expect from Avis. Would you be able to email me at comments@avis.co.uk with further details (and rental agreement numbers, if possible) and we’ll take a look into this for you.

    Stephen

  18. Douglas Barclay Says:

    Hi
    Since I am living in a right-drive country, used to sit in the left front seat – it is very hard to adjust to have a manual shift, coming to UK.
    Then I would like to have a cheap car – just to move around close to the airport (100-200 miles a week).
    Although I have preferred status – I am forced to hire my car from other supplies, as they have automatic cars from the smallest model all the way up.

    When will Avis start to have small automatic cars available – then I will come back in UK
    Douglas

  19. Nick Mountfield- Head of Marketing, Avis UK Says:

    Hi Douglas,

    Thank you for your comment and feedback.

    We offer 5 automatic groups in our range, ranging from a Peugeot 308 sized automatic through to a Mercedes E class. We do not have a very small automatic, since cars of this type cost us almost the same as a medium sized automatic car such as the Peugeot 308. Unfortunately in the UK the cost of automatic cars is significantly higher than manual ones as the demand for automatics is much lower than in other markets such as North America.

    Whilst our medium sized automatic cars aren’t the cheapest option for rental in the UK, we try to price them competitively and hope to be able to help you next time you visit.

    Nick

  20. Douglas Barclay Says:

    Nick
    Thanks for the answer, and I understand your dilemma, at least at the airports, where the tourists comes in.
    Douglas

  21. Vicki Wilson - Marketing, Avis UK Says:

    Hi Douglas,

    Thank you for your comment and suggestion

    As per Nick’s response above it is Automatic cars in the UK is higher than manual ones as the demand for automatics is much lower than in other countries.

    I have passed on your suggestion of getting smaller automatics on the Avis fleet to our fleet team and they will look into this for the future.

    Thanks again for your feedback and suggestion, we always want to know what our customer feel and would like from Avis.

    If you have any other questions or comments please let me know.

    Vicki

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