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National eyes growth as credit crunch hits home

Date: 15 May 2008   |   Author:

Lorraine Farnon

National Car Rental is planning for a period of sustained growth despite the current economic fears over the so-called 'credit crunch'.

National's UK sales director Lorraine Farnon said the firm is looking for "double digit growth in its van and minibus rental", as well as increasing its market-leading car rental position despite worldwide economic fears.

"This is where rental has fared very well," she said. "People don't want to commit to long-term contracts and rental gives them that flexibility."

She did though admit the cost of acquiring cars from manufacturers is increasing and the "challenge for us is to become more efficient to mitigate some of the cost to our customers".

Predictably, green issues are coming more to the fore, with customers increasingly focussed on vehicle CO2.

"A year ago I'd have said absolutely, customers are asking but the reality of the cost meant there wasn't a lot of take-up," she told BusinessCar. "It's still small but we're seeing more enquiries turning into rentals." NCR already has Toyota's Prius on its fleet and there have "been discussions" about adding VW's Bluemotion models, though how many and when is yet to be finalised.

Farnon said it's still "business as usual" for National and its Europcar parent company since the latter acquired NCR earlier this year.

"We remain focussed on the fleet segment, that's always been our primary focus, contract hire and fleet managers," she said, while Europcar focusses more Europe-wide. Benefits of the deal for NCR include an increased vehicle fleet and number of locations, particularly airports, while the four bases have been reduced with HQ now at Europcar's Bushey base near Watford and the reservation centre and National's Leicester facility. The NCR HQ in Uxbridge and Europcar's Leeds reservation site have been closed.