x Abu Dhabi, UAE Friday 21 July 2017

Rental business robust in recession

Corporate rental car clients makes up 80 per cent of business for one Abu Dhabi car rental organisation.

While a stroll down Abu Dhabi's Airport Road will reveal plenty of small, local car hire operations, Fast Rent A Car, another locally owned vehicle rental organisation, stands out. At first glance, this is because the company has multiple offices and professional signage, but there is more to the business than farming out 1.3L Mitsubishi Lancers to new expats. According to Ahmed Abood, the group general manager of Fast Rent A Car's parent company Emirates National Group, renting cars to private customers accounts for just 20 per cent of the business. It is the corporate clients that are the company's lifeblood, making up the other 80 per cent of the business.

"We are project managers, we have a history of project management," he says of the company that started as a combined car and truck hire business in 1990. The company restructured in 1996, with the two businesses being separated. "It just didn't work having the trucks and cars all in together." The company now has branches in Abu Dhabi, Dubai, Al Ain, Sharjah, Fujairah and Qatar. Abood says the recession has affected the business in Dubai far more than Abu Dhabi. "In Abu Dhabi, it [the recession] hasn't affected us at all," he says with a shrug, adding that, while business is down by around 20 per cent in Dubai, Abu Dhabi's volume was up 15-20 per cent before the usual summer slowdown. Abood attributes the delayed construction projects in Dubai to the downturn in his own business in the emirate. Fast Rent A Car was providing transport solutions for Dubai projects that are not currently active. "[As project managers], we were providing total transportation solutions - the companies would come to us for buses for the construction workers, office staff, everyone."

But two new workers' villages being built in the Musaffah, projects involving 70,000 people, as well as future projects in the capital, will provide a great boost to Fast Rent A Car. "We will look after the transportation of the labourers, we will cater for the project," says Abood. "And with Abu Dhabi's 2030 plan, there is a lot of construction planned - the new Abu Dhabi near the airport, the railroad project, there will be a lot of construction and a lot of people."

Business from government departments will also shore up Fast Rent A Car during the recession. "Government departments who used to own cars are now outsourcing. "The drop is manageable," says Abood of the recession. "I am confident that Dubai will recover very soon, too." "In 2010, we are looking to return to the trend of 25-35 per cent growth; in 2009, we will stabilise and close the books with a 2008 performance."

When asked if he sees the international hire car companies, such as Hertz and Avis, as competition, Abood says: "Not really." While he does not disparage these global brands, he says that Fast Rent A Car has a much wider selection of vehicles with 26 different model passenger cars available as well as minibuses, small trucks and light commercial vehicles. "We listen to what customers want and we can give them anything from a small, 1.3L automatic to luxury cars such as BMWs and SUVS."

Abood says the launch of the website a year-and-a-half ago has also improved business from international customers who have come across Fast Rent A Car via internet searches. Another reason for the company's success, according to Abood, is longer opening hours. "As well as being open all day and on Fridays and holidays, we have a 24-hour service too at some branches - while the others are at the beach, we are working." glewis@thenational.ae