Q & A: Leading the way

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Dawn Jones is dedicated and passionate about the car rental business.  As CEO of Imperial Car Rental – Europcar, she is in the driver’s seat of one of SA’s most well-known brands in the industry, ensuring a sound and sustainable business and the best in customer service. She was Boss of the Year 2007 and a finalist in Nedbank’s Businesswoman of the Year 2008. Jones talks of present offerings, past successes, and the future ahead for Imperial Car Rental – Europcar.

Describe a day in the life of Dawn Jones – the CEO

I spend 60% of my time interacting with people on the ground and customers, while 40% of the time is devoted to meetings and strategising.  I’m a firm believer in ‘do what you love and love what you do’.

In 2007, SA’s Imperial Car Rental merged with leading international car hire company Europcar.    How has this helped enhance business operations?

This has put us on the global map bringing with it an increase in incoming international business.  With 2010 on the horizon, we are well placed on the global front. We have benefited from increased back office and operational efficiencies and now have access to global best practice.

What are some of your top service offerings?

Imperial Car Rental – Europcar is the first car rental company inSouth Africato offer its customers ‘Easydrive’ hands-free mobile phone car kits, which comply with safety road legislation. They were also first to market a product that many South Africans have become accustomed to. They have fitted protective widow film on their luxury fleet. The film prevents the glass from shattering in the event of an accident or smash ‘n grab, providing safety and peace of mind.

Recently launched, Ready-2-Go is an online booking engine that allows customers to pre-register their personal details before they collect their vehicle. This in turn reduces the time that the customer spends at the counter.

List some of the company’s recent successes

The company has grown considerably, operating a fleet of 16 000 vehicles in Southern Africa through a network of 130 branches in eight African countries, i.e.South Africa,Namibia,Botswana,Lesotho,Swaziland,Zimbabwe,MozambiqueandZambia.  Our strong emphasis on technology has lead to enhancing the customer experience. Europcar was (once again) named the leading car-hire company in Africa at the World Travel Awards in 2008 while Europcar International acquired the franchise rights to the National Alamo Car Rental brand in Europe, Asia andAfrica.

What makes the company stand out from competitors?

 

Imperial Car Rental has always been a truly home-grown SA brand.  We have worked hard at establishing strong customer relations.  Some of our corporate relations span 10 to 15 years.  The company has also fostered a good reputation for service delivery. Building the brand to what it is today has meant a lot of perseverance and thinking out of the box. Our vision is to be the car rental of choice, an inspirational SA brand, and to make a difference to people’s lives.

How would you say the car rental business has evolved over the last decade in SA?

Ten years ago there were a million rental transactions compared with today’s 2,5-million.  Total fleet size back then was around 18 000, and at present the industry is 46 000 vehicles strong.  In other words, transactions have increased by 150% and fleet size by 160%. However, with the increasing number of local as well as international competitors in the SA industry, prices have been put under pressure.  This has resulted in prices remaining way below inflationary levels growing by only 12% in the last 10 years.

Elaborate on the challenges that the company faces

The high incidents of theft are a problem.  About 15-20 cars are stolen a month. High accident rates mean the added cost of vehicle repair and the downtime of fleet operations.  There is a shortage of skills in middle management, and retaining skilled people is difficult.

How is the company coping with the slow down of the economy? 

So far it has not impacted on us too much, but we are certainly gearing up for it.  There has been a slight decline in inbound volumes so we are tightening our belts.  Even in this economic slow down, travel is still a necessity, and with a lack of world-class public transport there is always a need to rent a car.  Should there be a need to scale back, we will ‘defleet’, i.e. sell off vehicles, or redeploy our fleet accordingly. 

Any advice to clients booking a car rental this holiday?

Customers should book early because you will get better value for money with our ‘early bird’ specials.  Rental prices increase when booking late into the holiday season, especially inCape Townand other coastal areas. This is a mere case of supply and demand.

 

 

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