Richard Lowden, founder, and CEO at Green-Motion tells us about the van and car rental services.
First of all, how are you and your family doing in these COVID-19 times?
Richard Lowden: I’m pleased to report that my family remains safe and is doing well despite the challenges that COVID-19 has brought, including the adaptations required to manage homeschooling.
Tell us about you, your career, and how you founded Green-Motion.
Richard Lowden: Having spent pretty much my entire early career with me starting my first car rental venture in 1993 after a brief spell with Thrifty car rental, I decided to innovate my existing car rental brand in 2007 into a brand that was focused entirely on supporting the environment.
How does Green-Motion innovate?
Richard Lowden: From the very get-go, Green Motion focused on delivering an entirely low CO2 experience for both leisure and business car rental customers, while the company itself did everything possible to reduce the negative impacts on the environment. We were the very first international vehicle rental company to offer fully electric and hybrid vehicles for rental and continue to offer the greenest car rental solutions within the marketplace. We also set about having a 100% franchised only business, with each location having its own dedicated owner/operator – this means that our focus on customer service has formed the backbone of our business, while also giving us a level of agility that none of our competitors can come close to.
How the coronavirus pandemic affects your business, and how are you coping?
Richard Lowden: Thanks to having an international footprint in over 50 countries around the world, when the pandemic arrived in Italy, it very quickly became apparent that it would negatively affect our business, and we started to immediately create a strategy for our entire global network to follow. By mid-March 2020, pretty much all international travel had ground to a halt, with us seeing an almost 100% collapse in business. However, due to our quick actions, the franchise network was able to quickly reshape their businesses from both a fleet and resource perspective, which in turn would allow them to protect their cash flow, which in turn gave them the necessary longevity to navigate the most challenging time our industry has ever faced.
Did you have to make difficult choices, and what are the lessons learned?
Richard Lowden: Both at a head office level and franchise level, difficult choices had to be made, including, for the first time in our history, making positions redundant, which are actions that never sit well with an entrepreneur business. But with a 100% drop in booking volume, many departments became inactive. In terms of doing things differently, we were quite forceful with our network in terms of the need to listen to advice, and perhaps we could have been even stronger than we were, but as always, hindsight is a wonderful thing we never get to enjoy. Many of our franchises, along with others in our sector, convinced themselves that the impact of the pandemic would be short-lived. However, centrally, we did not fall into this trap and had no illusions, with us putting together from the very onset a three-year recovery plan, where we would hopefully see the business come close to return to pre-pandemic levels.
What specific tools, software, and management skills are you using to navigate this crisis?
Richard Lowden: One of the key benefits which allowed us to navigate was enforcing a one-system approach across our entire network. This once again gave us the agility to make decisions quickly and adapt them instantaneously around the world.
Who are your competitors? And how do you plan to stay in the game?
Richard Lowden: Our main competitors are multinational rental companies, including Enterprise, Hertz / Thrifty Group, Avis / Budget Group, Europcar, and Sixt. In terms of staying in the game, Green-Motion was at the forefront of creating a COVID safety response, which created a very safe and approachable environment for our customers to continue using vehicle rental as a safe alternative to public transport. We’ve also continued our heavy investment in our contactless rental service, Drive & Go, which allows customers to fully pre-register using our app, and gain access to the vehicle using their phone as a key – no queues, no human contact, which in the current environment is a very strong solution. Despite COVID-19 having a heavy impact on our sector, we as a brand have continued to invest in our core systems and continued to support our franchise network, ensuring that all the services and support they required in order for them to navigate this period until the market recovers, which it will.
Your final thoughts?
Richard Lowden: From every crisis comes opportunity, and it’s important for all businesses to not allow themselves to be consumed with the here and now of the crisis but look for that opportunity. While COVID-19 has been devastating to the travel industry, we ourselves have pivoted our brand to support a multitude of new sectors from our mid to long-term leasing with our new Green Flex Program, renewed focus on domestic car hire within given markets, supporting the staycation and corporate markets, and our brand entering into new areas of mobility such as chilled / refrigerated van rental with our new brand – Cool Motion. Never stop innovating! Never stop investing!