Leading the mobility revolution: TD speaks to Keith Rankin, president – international, at Avis Budget Group

TD Editor

Back in September last year, Avis Budget Group appointed Keith Rankin as its new President – International. This is the second time the dynamic executive has worked for Avis, who joined the company for the first time in 1998 where he led the financial planning team, before being promoted to chief executive of Avis Car Rental Southern Africa in 2004.

Catching up with the man himself, just a few months into his new role, we discussed why he returned to Avis Budget Group, the impact of ride-sharing apps on traditional car rental, the future of mobility and a whole lot more…

TD: You have had a long history with Avis Budget Group, going back to 1998, and had experience in key roles — what brings you back to Avis Budget Group? 

Keith Rankin (KR): My background with the company has given me the opportunity to experience different areas of the business first-hand, and I am delighted to be back at a time when we are experiencing one of the most significant shifts in the mobility landscape around the world. 

We are in a great position to lead this mobility revolution”

My most recent position was the chief executive for the automotive division at Barloworld in South Africa, which is a licensee partner of Avis Budget Group. However, my journey with the company started over 20 years ago, in 1998 within the financial planning department.

I believe we are in a great position to lead this mobility revolution and become one of the leading voices shaping the future of mobility. 

TD: How has the company changed in the time that you were away?

KR: Avis Budget Group has been constantly innovating and evolving to meet the new expectations of its customers. 

It has formed a range of new partnerships and developed its services to ensure that it remains at the forefront and delivers mobility services to the high standard its customers expect. The Group has been building new platforms, developing technologies and capabilities to further revolutionise the rental experience, and evolving our business to meet the present and future needs of our customers.   

TD: How have ride-sharing apps like Uber, and specifically in Asia, Grab – affected Avis Budget Group?

KR: For our core business, our average rental globally is four days and 450 miles. These distances and timeframes are different from what a ride-sharing customer is looking for. Therefore, I would say there is a different need, customer and opportunity for traditional car rental and ride-sharing apps. However, ride-sharing apps like Uber and Grab do highlight how consumers are increasingly viewing transport as an on-demand and personalised service. This is consistent with what we see as the future of mobility, namely a fully integrated, connected, on-demand and personalised mobility landscape.  

The future of mobility is dependent on a fully connected travel ecosystem”

A recent report from Avis Budget Group ‘The Road Ahead: The Future of Mobility’, revealed 82% of consumers across 16 markets in Europe and Asia said owning a car is still important, but more than half (54%) are prepared to give up car ownership and rely on on-demand, long-term rental subscription services within the next decade. 

When looking at this trend in Asia, it’s interesting to see the uptake of Zipcar, the world’s leading car-sharing network that is owned and operated by Avis Budget Group. In Taiwan, Zipcar currently has 10,000 members with approximately 100 cars in the fleet to provide convenience to our customers. This demonstrates the change in consumer mobility behaviours as drivers become open to using alternative mobility services to access a vehicle. 

Furthermore, the report highlights the importance of mobility partnerships to improve the overall travel experience. The future of mobility is dependent on a fully connected travel ecosystem where different modes of transport work together to provide a streamlined and on-demand service. We are already demonstrating the success of this, for example in America we have partnered with Lyft, the fastest-growing ride-sharing company. 

TD: You are responsible for Europe, the Middle East, Africa (EMEA), Asia, Australia and New Zealand. How important is Asia to the global success of Avis Budget Group?

KR: Asia remains a key part of Avis Budget Group’s global success, and we are currently present in over 20 Asian markets. The car rental market in this region is expected to grow exponentially in the next five years as levels of disposable income continue to increase, as well as the number of people obtaining driving licenses. For instance, in 2018 nearly 370 million people in China held a driver’s license.

TD: How does the Asian market differ from the rest of the world?

KR: Avis Budget Group is present in more than 11,000 locations and over 180 countries around the world, we do not believe in a one-size-fits-all approach, but instead combine a sense of consistency for our customers, with individual market needs. The Asian markets are nuanced, and the trends for customer groups in each market are diverse. To ensure we are meeting these trends effectively, we work closely with local businesses in the Asian markets to demonstrate our commitment to shaping the mobility industry. 

Technology, and the future of mobility, is where the real opportunity lies for us”

For the region as a whole, there is a lot of potential for growth and, given our successful track record in the mobility industry, Avis Budget Group is well-positioned to continue building on our momentum and drive growth for years to come. 

TD: The travel industry (in fact most industries) has an obsession with digitalisation, what does this do for Avis Budget Group and how will benefit the customer?

KR: Technology, and the future of mobility, is where the real opportunity lies for us. We have a global fleet which we are working towards fully connecting. This will allow us to provide a data-driven intelligent mobility service meeting the mobility needs of both individuals and businesses. 

Our access to technology and data has allowed us to acquire deep expertise in global fleet management, and having a connected fleet means that critical data such as mileage, fuel level, and vehicle condition can be shared in real-time. This results in better-maintained vehicles and overall better customer experience.  Through digital innovation, from connected cars to cloud-based platforms and mobile apps, we have been continually reinventing the rental experience. 

TD: What other trends do you think will impact car rentals in Asia over the next few years?

KR: Asia Pacific destinations such as Australia, New Zealand and Japan are becoming increasingly popular as road trip destinations by Asian travellers and travellers around the world. As more people choose to go on self-drive holidays in Asia to discover hidden gems by car, and as more people access their driving licenses, we can expect demand for car rental in Asia to increase as well. 

“It is critical that we are constantly innovating”

Undertourism or less-frequented destinations is another trend that might potentially increase the demand for car rental in Asia. As awareness of overtourism increases, more travellers are seeking undiscovered and eco-friendly destinations for their holidays. As such places tend to lack a well-developed public transport system, cars would be the most convenient mode of transport, indirectly increasing the demand for car rental.

TD: Avis Budget Group has a record of forging practical but forward-thinking partnerships, such as Amazon and Arrive – what impact have these relationships have on the business and how important are they to the company’s future?

KR: As the first car rental company to host its platform on Amazon Web Services, Avis Budget Group has demonstrated its commitment to revolutionise and lead the way in the future of mobility. With the rapid pace of technological advancements, it is critical that we are constantly innovating and forging forward-thinking partnerships that will help us to be a step ahead of competitors.

We are always on a lookout for new partnerships”

Our partnerships are just the start of the future of mobility and they demonstrate how industry specialists need to work together to provide the best mobility services for consumers. We are proud to be leading the way in showcasing the success and importance of all travel services working together. We are excited about what the future holds for new and current partnerships.

TD: What partnerships have you made in this part of the world and what are you looking for in a partner?

KR: Avis Budget Group for the Asia region has been focusing on outbound self-drive holidays from Asia to the world for both the Avis and Budget brands. This is due to a growing demand for self-drive holidays among Asian travellers looking for new and unique travel experiences to undiscovered and lesser-known locations by road.

In 2019, Avis partnered with Mediterranean Luxe on a tourism campaign for the second year running to inspire Asian travellers to explore some of Mediterranean Europe’s most scenic spots by road, covering France, Monaco, Spain, Catalonia and Croatia. 

“There is a thirst… to deliver more on-demand, connected and personalised mobility solutions”

Partnerships with travel and mobility service providers are an important part of our business and we are always on a lookout for new partnerships to improve the overall travel experience for our customers. We believe that all travel and transport services must become fully integrated and connected, whether this is a new or existing service, to ensure the industry is meeting the requirements of its customers.

TD: What excites you most about the future of Avis Budget Group?

KR: For today and the future, the shifting mobility landscape is our biggest and most exciting opportunity. 

The technology revolution, coupled with changing consumer needs, means there is a thirst and opportunity to deliver more on-demand, connected and personalised mobility solutions to businesses and consumers. With this opportunity, there is a need to innovate existing services and be willing to take risks to move forward. With over 70 years’ experience and 11,000 locations around the world, Avis Budget Group is in a great position to not only be part of this mobility revolution – but also to help lead the way.

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