Enterprise takes franchising road to go global

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 16 March, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 16 March, 2013, 3:40am

Enterprise Holdings managed to become the world's largest rental car company by sales without actually spanning the globe. The chief executive says he knows that has to change.

Until recently, there was not an Enterprise rental counter in China, Spain or France. Malaysia and South Korea, two of the world's fastest growing markets, remain untapped.

So to meet the global needs of international corporations, chief executive Andy Taylor has had to do something the company has been loath to try in the 56 years since it was founded by his father Jack Taylor: franchising.

"Years ago, the thought of licensing was absolutely abhorrent," Taylor said. "We want to control that customer experience. We want our people taking care of customers. But we're learning that if we're going to be a global brand, and we need to be competitive in the future, we'll have to do it a different way."

Just not too different. While he is willing to give up a little control over customer contact to gain local insights, Enterprise is not interested in going public or making any other radical changes after the merger of Hertz Global and Dollar Thrifty Automotive last year or the rise of Zipcar and its acquisition by Avis Budget in January.

With a strong family culture and tight control over practices that set the industry's benchmarks, Enterprise has been able to call its own shots. It even set off this latest, and presumably last, round of major industry consolidation with its acquisition of the Alamo and National brands before the worst economic downturn since the Depression.

While those additions made Enterprise bigger, they did not make it global.

These days, Enterprise's corporate customers wanted a rental-car company with a matching footprint, Taylor said. Avis operates in 175 countries and Hertz, the second-largest US rental-car chain, is in 150. Enterprise is in about 40.

Some corporate customers wanted Enterprise in every corner of the world, others just in the biggest countries, Taylor said. He aims to get Enterprise in as many as 90 in three to five years. It entered China in March last year.