Interview: Avis Budget Group’s Keith Rankin on shifting mobility

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Keith Rankin, newly appointed president of the Avis Budget Group’s international region, speaks to Martyn Collins on the changing face of mobility and the latest pioneering solutions.

Keith Rankin, president of the International region at Avis Budget Group

Can you give me any idea of your short- and long-term plans, considering the Avis Budget Group’s leading position as the leading global provider of mobility solutions?

“The shifting mobility landscape is our biggest opportunity.

“The technology revolution, coupled with changing consumer needs, means there is a thirst and opportunity in this evolving mobility landscape to deliver more on-demand, connected and personalised mobility solutions to businesses and consumers. With this opportunity, there is a need to innovate existing services and be willing to take risks to move forward. With over 70 years’ experience and 11,000 locations around the world, Avis Budget Group is in a great position to not only be part of this mobility revolution – but also to help lead the way.

“To look at some specific opportunities in more detail, we can take the example of access versus ownership. Consumer behaviour has been driving this trend across various industries for years, as shown with the success of Netflix and Spotify which have revolutionised how consumers access entertainment content. In mobility, people are changing the way they travel and what they want from the mobility service providers they use. Attitudes towards car ownership, something which has always been of upmost importance to consumers, is shifting as drivers prioritise access to a vehicle which is best suited for their journey. Consequently, drivers are beginning to look into alternative mobility options such as rental and vehicle sharing services.

“This shift in attitude is being reflected in businesses too. From independent tradespeople to large global corporates, businesses are increasing their reliance on short-, long- and mid-term rental services to provide an on-demand and personalised solution. Whether it be a specific refrigerated van for summer trade or a larger fleet for year-round mobility needs, many businesses are changing their attitudes on needing to own these vehicles outright. Overall, we are seeing our business customers enjoy the freedom of picking and choosing the vehicles their employees have access to, and benefit from the agile pick-up and drop-off options that rental offers.

“Another example of a great opportunity is connecting with like-minded partners in delivering integrated mobility solutions. We are long-established fleet management and mobility experts. Learning and developing the efficiencies and patterns of fleets and customer behaviours require years of testing, scaling and continuously improving. That’s why we are investing in our own platform and other initiatives which enable us to offer services such as FMaaS (Fleet Management as a Service). Mobility providers like Waymo, Via and Lyft are working with us to help them accelerate their ability to meet demand through our FMaaS offering. We’re able to leverage our fleet acquisition and maintenance services to augment their fleets in select markets and get more drivers behind the wheel.

“Underlining all innovations and opportunities, we are focused on reinventing the rental experience for all our customers, which means making the customer journey more transparent, seamless and personalised. From our newly updated Avis App, to our world-leading car-sharing brand Zipcar, to connected cars and new offers and processes, we’re focused on providing mobility on-demand where and when you need it.”

What experience from your other positions within the group do you think will prove to be most useful in your new role?

“I’m fortunate enough to have previous experience at Avis Budget Group. My most recent position was the chief executive for the automotive division at Barloworld in South Africa, which is a licensee partner of the group. However, my journey with the company started over 20 years ago, in 1998, within the financial planning department.

My background and history with Avis Budget Group has gifted me the opportunity to experience different areas of the business first-hand. I have also seen and lived through our innovations and am very excited about this period of transition we are in now as the mobility landscape is shifting beneath our feet. We are in a great position to lead this revolution, and I am very excited about the opportunities set out in front of us.”

End-to-end transportation is becoming more and more important part of mobility – considering Avis Budget Group’s position in the market, how do you plan to capitalise on this?

“We are extremely proud to be trusted mobility experts, from car rental services to fleet management and beyond. We have built this trust through our high standards of customer service and our commitment to reinvent the rental experience. We are continuously working on new, innovative services to lead the way in the future of mobility and drive progress forward.

“We know that the future is having a fully connected travel and transport ecosystem where all modes of transport work together to provide a fully on-demand and connected mobility service. To achieve this, travel and mobility service providers need to work as one which is dependent on partnerships.

“An example of where we are already doing this is Avis Budget Group’s global partnership with Etihad Aviation Group, the national airline of the UAE, Etihad Holidays and Etihad Guest. The partnership gives travellers a seamless travel experience and customers benefit with a range of exclusive offers.

“We are always on the lookout for new mobility partnerships and ways in which we can improve the overall travel experience. In addition to our longstanding global partnerships with large airlines like Etihad, we also have partnerships with new players in the mobility industry, such as the fastest-growing ride share company, Lyft, in America, and in Germany, Avis has partnered with nextbike, the leading bike sharing brand in Europe, to ensure customers have the most suitable transport service available for their trip type.”

Avis and Budget are both recognised mobility brands, but are there any changes planned to increase visibility?

“Avis Budget Group is always looking at opportunities to secure new partnerships, which will naturally increase visibility in the mobility space. All travel and transport services will need to become fully integrated and connected, whether this be a new service or existing, to ensure the industry is meeting the requirements of its customers.

“Examples of how Avis Budget Group is already leading in this field include our 20+-year partnership with International Airlines Group (IAG) and our exclusive partnership with Etihad Airlines, but also our technology partnerships with Continental to equip our vehicles with the Key as a Service technology and our recent partnership with Ford where we will have over 14,000 connected vehicles in our European fleet by the end of 2020. Furthermore, we partnered with ViaVan, the shared transit services provider, to provide a fleet management service providing eight-seater vans and a weekly wash-and-clean service in Milton Keynes.

“Our partnerships are just the start of the future of mobility but demonstrate how industry specialists need to work together to provide the best mobility service. We are proud to be leading the way in showing both the success and importance of all travel services working together and excited about what the future holds for new and current partnerships.”

Smaller fleets seem more receptive to mobility solutions other than the company car – have you any plans to specifically target this area of the market?

“At Avis Budget Group, we have a range of business customers ranging from individual tradespeople to large corporates. We are extremely proud of the business rental solutions we have to offer our customers, and therefore we can provide a solution which is tailored to the business’s individual needs. We have short-, medium- and long-term rental plans available, and with rental, there are many benefits which other mobility solutions cannot always offer such as agreements with no long-term obligation or no early return fees.

“Furthermore, we are always reviewing the mobility services we provide to ensure our service meets the mobility needs and demands of our customers.

“For example, we have recently noticed an increased demand for an all-inclusive rental product where customers pay one fee and have all their rental options included in the price. Responding to this demand, we have launched a trial of the service in selected rental locations. The trial product is for both business and leisure customers, and if successful we will look to make it widely available for all customers.”

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Martyn Collins

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