When it comes to going the extra mile, CARO Autovermietung takes this customer service mantra quite literally. Unlike its larger competitors, it offers a door-to-door rental service with a team of drivers employed to deliver and collect rental vehicles directly to and from its clients in just a few hours at any time of day or night.
“This service also compensates for the fact that with 50 stations located throughout Germany we do not have the same density of coverage as our larger competitors,” says Managing Director Stefan Peters. “That is also why we have city centre offices in smaller towns such as Regensburg and Freiburg.
They allow us to be closer to our customers.” Stefan Peters has been in the car rental business since the 1970s. He sold a previous rental company that he had built up over the years to Alamo in the mid-1990s, but then found he missed the business and decided to start again from scratch.
He started in Bremen and then gradually built up a nationwide presence. “I still have a hand in strategic decision-making but am no longer involved in the operative side of the business. I see my job in company development, securing investment capital and overseeing organisational matters. I have a very good management team to whom I entrust the day-to-day operations of the business.”
One of the most obvious changes to the car rental business since the 1970s is the rise of internet car reservations. “We have our own website via which both private and corporate clients can reserve vehicles,” says Mr. Peters. “The rental price is calculated automatically online but is also subject to a best-price guarantee. Today, a majority of bookings are made online, although we also operate a call-centre so that clients can book by telephone.”
Another important source of customer bookings is via brokers. These are received by the CARO Service Centre which operates 24/7 for round-the-clock availability. Just under 40% of CARO’s business comes from corporate key accounts, while the supply of courtesy cars for car insurance customers in the case of an accident accounts for a further 35% of turnover. This is a popular service with insurance customers and CARO Autovermietung has contracts with many of the big names in the business, including Allianz, HUK, Coburg and Gothaer.
The tourism sector is developing strongly and now accounts for 14% of turnover. The company’s off-airport stations are located close to major airports such as Frankfurt and Munich while bookings are handled by brokers. The largest of these is Rental Cars which is strongly focused on the tourist market.
“We have an advantage by being slightly removed from the airport itself,” says Mr. Peters. “We collect our clients from the airport with a shuttle bus and bring them to the rental station where there are no waiting times and helpful staff can advise them.”
CARO Autovermietung believes in offering a high-quality service both in its customer relationships and its fleet of rental vehicles. The majority of the vehicles in its fleet are from German manufacturers and all are under seven months old. In February 2014, CARO added the premium electric executive saloon car Tesla Model S to its fleet to appeal to environmentally conscious customers.
In addition to passenger vehicles, CARO also specialises in special vehicles such as dumper trucks, dual control vehicles for driving schools and adapted vehicles for people with disabilities. The size of the fleet fluctuates in strength between three to four thousand vehicles. The majority of these are purchased directly from their German manufacturers as part of long-standing contracts.
It is unusual for a rental company of CARO Autovermietung’s size to have direct contracts with manufacturers. “Our direct competitors do not have such contracts although they offer a significant advantage, particularly in terms of our ability to match the conditions offered by the dominant players in the market.”
The car rental business is highly capital-intensive, which means good relations with banks and leasing companies are a further prerequisite for success. “I have a background in the banking sector and financing is a hobby of mine,” says Mr. Peters.
At an age when most people retire, the managing director still relishes the challenge of the business world and is looking to the future of his company. “I am sure that one day we will expand internationally, but there is still plenty of potential in the German market for us to exhaust. In the meantime, we will continue to focus on our customers and on providing them with the best possible service. If we want to continue to grow, then we will have to move into new segments, including establishing ourselves at airports. We have applied for a number of concessions and hope that they will help us achieve our goal of moving up a couple of places to become the fourth- or fifthlargest car rental firm in Germany.”
CARO Autovermietung GmbH
Ausser der Schleifmühle 60/62
28203 Bremen, Germany
Phone: +49 421 3385100
Fax: +49 421 3385199
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