As more vacationers seek a total travel experience, car rental company Silvercar is looking to capitalize by expanding its services and targeting travel agents as a distribution channel.
At the American Society of Travel Agents global conference this week, Austin, TX-based Silvercar announced it is doubling travel agent commissions to 25%. The firm also hosted meet and greet education sessions with agents about its high-touch, Audi A4-only rental car services.
The company, operating from 17 locations in 13 United States cities, offers bookings and vehicle check-in and check-out through a smartphone app. In many locations, it also picks users up at the curb to drive them to the company’s lot. All of Silvercar’s Audi A4s come equipped with free wi-fi, GPS and satellite radio.
Travel agents weigh in
“For our clients, Silvercar is about the entire rental experience. It’s seamless customer service and ease of booking, knowing exactly what kind of car you are getting, and the fact that it really isn’t much more expensive than what other rental car companies are charging,” said Brett Snyder, president of Cranky Concierge, a travel agency in Long Beach, CA.
Carrousel Travel in Minneapolis has been booking clients with Silvercar for several years, said Doug Moorhouse, director of marketing and business development. “Once I tried it, I was hooked, and I said to my colleagues, ‘We need to introduce this to our clients.’”
Snyder said that his agency has “a lot of clients who really, really care what they are driving and will ask for Silvercar by name. The ones who have the most affinity for Silvercar are the clients where time matters most. They know it is quick and easy to get the car. This is also the group that says, ‘This is a nice car.’”
Plans to double operations
Silvercar was incorporated in 2012 and launched services in Dallas in early 2013. It has slowly been introducing its concept since then, recently adding Orlando and Seattle service. The firm has plans to double its operations in the next 18 months.
The company has been so successful that Audi earlier this year converted its partial ownership stake in the firm to total ownership.
Chris Donus, Silvercar president and CFO, said the firm currently serves about 10,000 customers a month from 13 airports and four downtown locations.
Looking to agents
Donus said Silvercar is looking to the travel trade to help it build on its success. “Travel agents are huge in the car rental space,” he said, noting that agents drive about $5 billion in revenue across the industry. Silvercar estimates agents represent anywhere from 25% to 35% of the market.
“Agents put their customer first and want a seamless experience if their client is booking a car because that adds to the overall travel experience and reflects well on the agent. They also know their customers and the itineraries where driving an Audi A4 will enhance that overall experience,” Donus said.
The company has met with 100 to 150 agents over the last three months, “and the reception has been tremendous,” he said. Donus noted that Silvercar pays commissions up front, versus some of its competitors.
“We’re not necessarily for every traveler,” said Steve Calla, vice president of marketing. “A lot of agents will first introduce us to their corporate clients, because they like the fact that we can guarantee such a high level of service.”
Agents can book Silvercar directly through the company’s website as well as through their GDS.