INNER-city business drivers are the core audience for BMW's new car rental service, which will be available through 40 dealers by the end of next year.

With a pilot programme operating at eight retail outlets, BMW's corporate sales development manager Chris Brownridge, emphasised that it will not be a: "holiday hire, airport or hotel franchise operation."

He added: "It is a million miles away from daily rental which would be the kiss of death for residual values and brand status. It will be executed in the quality BMW manner with a complete, no-hidden -extras package."

Typical daily hire rates will start from £42 for a MINI One, rising to a 3 Series at £53 before reaching the 7 Series tariff of £150.

Brownridge admitted that private customers will be the "icing on the cake" and each dealer is expected to run a minimum rental fleet size of 12 cars, whose make-up will be dictated by customer demand.

Describing the programme as a "broadening of brand and dealer portfolios", Brownridge said the inner-city business driver: "often needs cars for particular corporate commitments, and does not want mainstream products because status is a factor. We are responding to something corporate customers have been calling for."

Branded BMW Rental and MINI Rental the scheme does not extend to hourly hiring, including: "£400 blasts in an M3" but it will aim to satisfy particular company demands.

These are illustrated by one dealer renting a MINI to a company for 11 consecutive weekends at £70 to £80 as part of a staff motivation reward system.

In another case a firm hired a 5 Series for one month to: "keep a newly-appointed manager in the style to which he was accustomed."

Brownridge predicted that 90 out of 155 BMW and MINI retailers could operate rental points within three years. The advanced guard of hire operations are located at Damon Hill Warwick, Wollaston Northampton, Scotthall Southampton, Lister Park Bradford, Snows Portsmouth, Williams Manchester, Altwood Taplow and Eastern Edinburgh.

Published : 27/11/03 Author : Melanie Carter

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