23 Sep 22

How Enterprise has emerged from the pandemic stronger and better

The pandemic era has wreaked havoc on the fleet industry, overwhelming lease companies with pessimism. But hard times have also proven to be good for discovering new ways to overcome problems and adapt to shifting trends in mobility. 

One of the best examples is Enterprise, which has emerged from the pandemic stronger and expanded its operations all over Europe. Adrian Bewley, Assistant Vice President for European Business Rental Enterprise Holdings, shared his insights on the company's success, underlining the importance of pinpointing the needs of a changing ecosystem and responding in time. "The biggest thing is journey planning," Bewley says as he glances at their strategy and a glimpse of their vision, which is quite optimistic. 

Could you brief us about Enterprise and your operations? 

"We are operating in over 40 European countries; we run 1.85 million vehicles globally and have 230,000 in Europe across 1,300 locations with and 120,000 vehicles in the UK. Our competitive advantage for those distribution channels as an access point for business-to-business travellers will become increasingly critical. And one of the biggest differentiators is opening up more locations throughout the year, especially since the pandemic has seen a huge investment in our branch infrastructure. And we're looking at where possible to make them multimodal, so access to other mobility choices in different cities and towns across the Continent. We see nothing but opportunity ahead, thanks to our private ownership in the most volatile economic conditions I've ever witnessed."

We see a completely different picture post-pandemic. What has changed?

"First and foremost, the thing that happened during the pandemic is that our traditional models collapsed, as in everyday business-to-business travel didn't happen. The key thing we did was build long-term partnerships with customers; we continued to operate in all our countries during that time. Although the industry per se saw a huge drop in demand, we could essentially rent to more departments within organisations. We invested heavily in our sales team and focused on controlling what you can control: talking to our customers and relaying messages of what's happening. We focused very heavily on contracted customers who needed mobility throughout the pandemic. And we've prioritised our B2B and our replacement customers to the tune of over 90% of our businesses across Europe; there is a very vibrant market at the airports where retail demand is currently at levels I've never seen before." 

Did you take vehicles from airports and put them somewhere else?

"Yes, we absolutely prioritised our service provision to look after contracted customers. We saw a lot of businesses pivot post-pandemic with new requirements. And it allowed us to build what I would call a value-to-add, almost consultancy-led service. Because we've come from a period where we remodelled travel policies and had people move, and we continue to do that. In the post-pandemic era, we've been able to be much more than a car hire provider."

What have you changed in your business model? 

"We've got expansion plans in all our countries. We call it the home city network. I think being able to be close to our customers, post-pandemic, is critical because we have such a scale in our operations. We were in all the smaller towns and cities across Europe and closer to our customers, enabling us to react. We had a decentralised fleet plan that allowed us to react and have a competitive advantage. And our network is tremendously important because of our community relations. We're expanding our branch network, footprint, and sales teams, and we see a very optimistic future across Europe in incredibly challenging economic conditions." 

What are your plans for growing trends, like converting your fleet to electric? 

"In mainland Europe, we're seeing a considerable rise in mobility requirements at train stations, a surge in low-emission vehicles and people looking to try and decarbonise where possible. We offer consultative advice to all our sales team to drive EVs, so we have practical advice on what home charging looks like and what public charging challenges you will have to overcome. We're creating customer think tanks that allow us to experience some of the challenges and things we need to implement. The biggest thing is journey planning; how far are you going? How often would you need to recharge? Is that appropriate for that particular trip? Many things are changing; number one is the range of available vehicles that probably doubled in the last three years. Making this transition is helping our customers because many factors have been changing thanks to the improved public networks, especially in Germany and the UK, and it's very exciting."

Are you considering mobility only around car rental, or do you have other products? 

"Our main provisions are Car Club, car share, and daily rental. There are core services with our Flex-E-Rent brand in the UK. Across Europe, we're in trial stages in micro-mobility with several projects. We have launched a full-blown scheme in Scotland with the GO-HI Mobility-as-a-Service (MaaS) project, where we've integrated a mobility platform with ferries, our car club, and the local bus provider. We believe the most significant change will come in several years with scope three emissions. Ultimately, the commute, the pool car, the rental car, and the fleet car will all be considered for reporting on emissions." 

What are the biggest threats to fleet management and the biggest opportunities for yourself as a fleet company?

"My biggest threat and worry is I do not want to return to those days of pre-pandemic, where we lived in a highly commoditised market where it was just about the car. I'm talking about the value that Enterprise brings. I think the biggest opportunity will be decarbonisation and also scope three emissions. We see our role in that changing and evolving. It's not been defined yet, but scope three emissions will open up the market in many different ways. I've never been more excited about our future than where we are right now; I just think we're on the verge of some inspiring times."

Photo of Adrian Bewley, Assistant Vice President for European Business Rental Enterprise Holdings.

Authored by: Mufit Yilmaz Gokmen