French Investment firm Eurazeo has purchased Europcar for $4 billion in cash from its former owner Volkswagen. The firm is now looking for a U.S. partner, as well as expansion in China. With a 200,000-vehicle fleet, Europcar is now Europe’s biggest rental agency employing 5,200 people at 2,900 rental locations.
Veteran Salvatore Catania joined Europcar nearly three decades ago. Since his step up to CEO in 2002, the group has grown its worldwide market share considerably.
Catania tells Breaking Travel News about his worldwide expansion plans for the group and his optimistic growth predictions for the car rental industry over the next few years.
BTN: How important is your online sales strategy?
Catania: e-commerce is one of the strategic priorities for Europcar and it represents a significant share of our business today. We have seen a growth year on year since 2000 and we have achieved a 20 percent share during 2005.
BTN: You have extended your partnership with easyJet. What has this partnership done for Europcar?
Catania: We are working very closely with easyJet and we are willing to continue working with them because both parties are benefiting from this relationship.
BTN: Where are you looking to expand in coming months?
Catania: The world is important and we will invest globally. We want to be present where we are not today and we are actively working on that.
Our strategic interest in the Middle East region as one of the fastest booming tourist regions has been made visible by the fact that Europcar has been awarded “Middle East’s Leading Car Hire Company” for 2005 by the World Travel Awards.
BTN: Since your promotion to CEO in 2002, what have you brought to the group?
Catania: Europcar has taken over the number one position in the European car rental industry as of 2004 and since than has been constantly extended its position.
Leadership for Europcar means not only growing fleet and network size, but in particular, profitability and performance - both of which have been not only stabilised, but significantly enhanced over the last few years.
BTN: What are your predictions for the car hire travel landscape in the next five years?
Catania: I see growth as the globalisation process continues to accelerate. Growth as mobility demand within booming new markets increases. And there will be growth as the Internet world has just left the starting-blocks in terms of online car rental booking.
Yet growth within our industry goes together with the constant development of services - whether it is at the front office or back office - or in front of our rental customers or business partners.
By Justin Cooke