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In Focus: Enterprise Car Club

Date: 08 April 2020   |   Author: Sean Keywood

The vehicle rental giant has big ambitions for its car sharing platform. Sean Keywood finds out more.

In the fleet industry today we hear a lot about shared mobility, with the idea that cars assigned to a particular person will become increasingly rare as we move towards a more integrated process driven by technology. But what can these ideas offer to fleets in the here and now? One company that believes it has the answer is rental firm Enterprise, through its Enterprise Car Club scheme. 

Speaking to us at the firm's headquarters in Egham, Surrey, Adrian Bewley, Enterprise's assistant vice-president of business mobility in the UK and Ireland, explains how the company's first car club foray in the UK was in 2007, before it expanded through the acquisition of City Car Club in 2015.

 "What we were able to do is fold the City Car Club model into our existing customers' requirements, and allow Car Club to help solve customer issues which are unique in the B2B space," he says.

Enterprise Car Club, which now has around 2,300 vehicles on its fleet, is available for organisations to use in several ways.

One of these is a 'dedicated car club', which sees Enterprise providing on-site vehicles for use only by employees as pool cars. However, if the customer chooses, these vehicles can also be made available to the local community to use outside of work hours, with a revenue-sharing agreement possible. 

Another type of purchase is 'block booking', where regular on-street Car Club vehicles near the customer's locations can be reserved for employees in certain periods, such as during work hours.

Alternatively, employees can simply book on-street Car Club vehicles as and when they need to, in the same way as a non-business user, or Enterprise can install its Car Club technology in an organisation's existing pool car fleet, allowing booking and management through Enterprise products.

The arrangement where dedicated Car Club vehicles can be made available to the public out of hours has proved popular with local authorities, and Bewley says it is an arrangement that was inspired by customer demand.

"Back in 2007, Woking Borough Council said to us we need you to help reduce our grey fleet spend, take out risk, and also offer a community transportation option which reduces the number of personal cars on the road and becomes part of a connected transportation system within that particular borough.

"Our Car Club proposition is a unique opportunity to effectively solve multiple issues, whether it be pool car optimisation, grey fleet reduction and management, or part of an integrated travel plan for the wider community."

Bewley says a benefit to firms using Enterprise Car Club is the ability to link it to the Enterprise Travel Direct desktop application.

"Effectively, it is a travel policy enforcement application that routes you to the most appropriate mode of transport, so if Car Club is your preference it will always tell you which one is the closest to where your location is from a B2B transaction point of view, and also streams you to the most cost-effective or most accessible mode of transport. So instead of a travel policy being a document that just sits on an intranet site, now we have a platform that enforces what the requirements are." 

Bewley says that the Car Club service often proves its worth when customers experience it in 'moments of distress'. 

He says: "If you put yourself in a situation which has been played out many, many times, of a company car user who has broken down, you have a multitude of options. 

"Either you wait for recovery, get a taxi, get delivered to a rental provision, or you can be taken to a Car Club vehicle, gain instant access, which means you are on the road faster, and you are on with your day. 

"Once you realise Car Club is right outside your door or in close proximity, the convenience and accessibility will drive the choice."  

Enterprise Car Club currently has 860 electrified vehicles, including conventional hybrids, plug-in hybrids and pure electric, which is more than Enterprise has in its daily rental fleet.

Bewley says: "A lot of that [adoption] is to do with cooperating with local authorities in and around the charging infrastructure. 

"And those numbers will be driven purely by customer demand and adoption, and infrastructure being built out as well, so although the numbers aren't absolutely huge from our total fleet numbers, the bit to remember is once these become accessible through availability and price point, people will adapt to them."

The high level of electrified take-up hasn't been achieved by imposing the vehicles on customers. Instead, Bewley says Enterprise works to identify the right vehicle for every requirement, which could still include internal combustion engines or even no car at all.

"There are times where we look at it and think no travel is a good option, and that is part of what we do," he explains. 

"We are brand agnostic to the advice; we are not just going to give advice that benefits us, because that won't go very well from an adoption point of view."

The car sharing sector has suffered a highly publicised wobble in recent months following the withdrawal from the UK of DriveNow, with the BMW and Daimler-owned service blaming low customer take-up. However, Bewley says this does nothing to reduce his confidence in Enterprise Car Club.

"There is a distinct difference between the business model of DriveNow and the Enterprise model," he says. "Our model is base-to-base, as in you return the vehicle back to the place of origin. The DriveNow model was a one-way model, which has its own unique challenges.

"It is not good for any part of the industry for somebody to run into any hardship, I accept that, but there is a distinct difference between the business models, and it is our jobs to explain that to our end users and the industry as a whole."

Bewley says that the plan for Enterprise Car Club now is major expansion.

"Enterprise has 470-plus branches, and we have 120-plus of those with a Car Club vehicle outside for 24/7 access," he explains.

"We are looking to double those access points outside branches over the next year, maybe a bit longer, but ultimately the medium-term expansion plans are for us to be part of the transportation conundrum that all of us face, both in our professional and personal lives. 

"And as we solve more problems for those two derivatives, it is really difficult to put a number on what the expectation will be, other than it will be significantly more than it
is today."

Bewley also sees Car Club as an integral part of Enterprise's Mobility as a Service (MaaS) offering, which it recently trialled with Transport
for Manchester.

The trial saw travellers using a platform that offered Car Club alongside options such as trains, trams, buses and even walking.

Bewley says: "We help support the other modes of transport. We saw a huge adoption of people using a tram and then Car Club, or vice versa - but the main focus of the local authority to reduce the number of cars on the road. 

"Transport for Manchester has taught us that Car Club as part of a large ecosystem of services is the way forward for every major city from a MaaS point of view, and also how there is probably more change coming to the way we move, both business and personal, than at any other time, certainly in my career. 

"It is no longer a 'nice to have' - it will become prohibitively challenging to a lot of organisations to travel in certain areas because of clean air zones and low-emission zones, and that is where companies need flexibility."

Bewley says this changing landscape is behind his confidence in Car Club's future success.

"In our opinion it has a huge future, and it has become mainstream in everything it does, because it solves an enormous amount of challenges and business opportunities that our customers bring to us. 

"I think there are opportunities that we will be asked to solve over the next few years that Car Club, in our opinion, will be in the best position to solve. I can only see great things happening in the short to medium term."