By Mike Sheldrick, Senior Editor
With nearly 300,000 vehicles in its worldwide fleet, Sixt is one of the largest car rental companies in the world. Presently, thousands of those are idle because of COVID-19. As part of a program to contribute to efforts to remediate the crisis, Sixt is providing rental cars, at cost, to support the safe movement of key workers to and from the workplace in the U.S. and Europe.
We recently spoke with Stuart Donnelly, Sixt’s Global Sales Director, about the company’s program:
Donnelly: We have been assisting key workers across Europe and the U.S. to keep their essential employees safe by providing alternative means of transport vs. public or shared transport/transit to bring them to and from industries that have to keep operating even during a lockdown: hospitals, food processing, wholesale distribution companies, waste and water treatment facilities. In short, any essential activity.
The cost of losing employees to COVID-19 and self-isolation is significant, both in terms of the obvious health impact alongside cost and the need for critical supplies and services. We help them keep operating by offering cars for rent. In some instances, we can even provide drivers — in some cases around the clock.
FMW: Can you give us an example?
Donnelly: In fact, there are many. Perhaps the most important at this point is the medical community.
Doctors, nurses and food, health, and hygiene workers all need the safest and most hygienic mode of transportation to get them to-and-from the workplace so that they can remain on the frontline as opposed to self-isolating at home and possibly spreading the disease there. There is a far greater chance of being infected by the virus on public transit or ride-sharing services as opposed to traveling by car. Many people in large cities do not own cars and are dependent on these services to get to work.
We have created a similar program for workers producing the essential drugs and vaccines to fight COVID-19. In fact, essential drugs for all existing medical conditions. For the most part, companies do not provide transportation for essential or key workers. In some cases, the company may bus a shift in from downtown to the plant. If one or two workers show symptoms, a whole shift might have to self-isolate, taking down an entire shift that will be forced to self-isolate.
FMW: There seems to be no end to the possible support Sixt can provide.
Donnelly: Indeed. Logistics is another significant area. Supermarkets or parcel delivery companies, and even restaurants providing home delivery are expanding their existing service. We have cars/vans available to expand capacity to meet the increased demand for home deliveries. We can also provide vans with our drivers who are have been trained in the procedures needed to avoid transmission of the virus and danger to their own health and that of the customers.
FMW: We understand that you also have provided cars for people returning from overseas, seeking a safe way to return home.
Donnelly: Foreign nationals returning home on rescue flights (commercial and charter), need transportation for the “last mile,” to home and cannot use public transportation. That’s for their own health, and to avoid the possibility that they could infect others. Evidence of how unsafe the bus or tube can be was recently demonstrated in the UK.
Recently, it was reported that more than 10 tube and bus drivers had died of COVID-19 infection. The UK government has created a 75K pound fund to promote safe passage home so that returnees can self-quarantine.
FMW: So, in effect, you have offered a very valuable surge capacity to help mitigate the pandemic. When we return to normalcy, do you think that this experience will change the nature of rental cars and fleets?
Donnelly: Fortunately, there are encouraging signs that the worst may be receding. We can only hope that continues. But I do think that once we actually do get back to normal, all business, including rental, will change. Even before the recent crisis, we recognized that the reduction of jobs by the implementation of AI was going to be a challenge. Many economists are already projecting a slow, protracted return to normalcy. The result will be that many organizations will have to reduce employees in order to match output to demand. Fewer employees ultimately mean fewer lease and rental cars. From our perspective, we think that many companies may choose to replace leased cars with flexible, long-term rentals that can be replaced with a lease at any time if conditions warrant it.
This also supports the movement towards MaaS and electrification as flexible long term rentals can allow employees to switch powertrains for weekday/weekend use and also substitute the car for any duration and plug-in car or bike/scooter sharing, ride-hailing, public transport, etc., albeit the latter will not be considered, I believe, for the foreseeable due to the health effects of shared mobility
FMW: How would U.S. fleets participate in this service?
Donnelly: Sixt.com shows the B2C offers available for long term rentals; weekly, monthly AND 3 months from $79 per week. Sixt app is available on Apple and Android and links are available on this website.
These rates are at discounts up to 30% off and are replicated in the app under the Flat option – which is the special long term rates we have created. For fleets wishing to setup a corporate deal during the crisis, they can reach out to me at Stuart.firstname.lastname@example.org.