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The Car Hire Industry, Heritage And Future

Jul 23, 2008
The car hire industry can trace its history almost back to the introduction of the motorcar. Car hire has been a service available to travellers now for almost one hundred years. The first instance of a company renting cars was in America; its founder was called Joe Sanders who in 1916 rented Model T Fords to travelling salesmen. The first instance of car hire is reputed to be a salesman who rented a car to take a local girl out for a date. This first use is interesting in that car hire companies since their inception have been involved in improving people's leisure time.

In these early years many people did not own a car; companies at the time exploited this and highlighted the inadequacies of public transport in their literature. Proposing that renting was a way to avoid the stresses of public transport while being more convenient was quickly stated in marketing material. Having the means to travel in your own time is hard to underestimate, combined with freedom of travel it is a worthwhile travel solution. While early companies were few and far between, today a car hire desk is never far away, making renting a viable means of getting around.

In the modern era most airports have provisions for car rental, usually placed directly outside the arrivals lounge so passengers are presented with services almost as soon as they land. This is important as travellers rarely want to spend hours searching for rental services after landing, most want to be on their way as quickly as possible. Thankfully today, modern services allow for this speed of transfer making travel that much easier.

While car hire companies have always been in competition with public transportation, today, in the UK at least this is becoming less of an issue. Currently public transport and especially the railways are becoming extremely expensive for travellers. For groups of people travelling renting is even more appealing as the money that can be saved can be considerable. Rail tickets for a long journey can reach into the hundreds, when you factor in four separate tickets this price is rather large. In comparison a hire car can cost considerably less, especially if the charges are shared by the four travellers.

Rental companies do much of their business with corporate customers. For those who travel a lot on business the ease that having a hire car can bring makes a great deal of difference to the time spent travelling and the comfort of that travel. Corporations can also usually build a good working relationship with rental companies allowing them to receive preferential rates and specialist services.

Unlike the first rental company that used its fleet to give customers the novelty of driving a car, in modern times most people already own one. This has meant that companies have had to pursue other strategies when courting business. One of the ways in which this has been done has been by combining car hire with holiday packages. The creation of the 'fly and drive' holiday has been an especially important masterstroke in attracting customers. Larger companies are also able to have outlets in many different countries meaning that tourists have a name they recognise and trust wherever they are in the world.

With such a rich history it is hard to contemplate where the car hire industry is going. Undoubtedly it will continue to pursue business in the tourist industry and conjunction with airports although a move towards securing fleets has also been evident. The improvements in GPS tracking technology and digital fingerprinting have meant that security has become increasingly important. Whatever happens, the industry will continue to provide a travel solution for many people worldwide.
About the Author
Industry expert Thomas Pretty looks into the development of the car hire industry and how it is evolving.
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