The car market – sales, leasing, rentals – is often seen as a benchmark for the health of an economy. We talked with Tal Lahav, CEO of Sixt Group Romania, about the evolution of their activity in 2020 and about older and newer trends that he identifies in Romania.
Dear Mr. Tal Lahav, three quarters have passed of this year, a special year, which is hardly comparable with any other in recent memory. How was this year for you so far from the perspective of the business you run?
Indeed 2020 so far has been a year we will all remember because what was before will not be what will be after. All economic segments suffered and all people experience challenges both economically, psychologically, sociology, and health and wellbeing. The coronavirus affected our business and the industry in general. However, we overcome it and survived during the storm, I might say, with as minimum damages as possible. Now, we increased the speed with the intention to reach the levels of pre virus. With the right attitude and the proper adapted services and mind set this will be achieved. In order to mitigate the effects of the coronavirus we have taken firm steps and have adapted our services to the situation and the need of the people and the market, both from the perspective of our clients, employees, and suppliers. We have taken the main investment in our lease, rent a car, and cars sales and service divisions through the human capital of our company and further through products developments to support clients experience using our services. We created solutions that enable client to have safety, trust, convenience, and flexibility, all wrapped in a package of professional excellence and excitement of renting, leasing, and buying experience.
In spite of the context, still the overall car market in Romania is one of the lowest car per capita, one of the oldest car parks, one of the worst ratio between new cars to used cars sales and one of the worst in ratio between imported old cars to new and used cars sold in the market. All these lead to huge unfulfilled potential and more than this a need to heal the car industry and resulting that the car industry in total and the leasing and rent segments in particular can be a tremendous pillar of growth and development to the Romanian economy. Of course all these should also be supplemented with investment in infrastructure development. The short term effects of the coronavirus over the market will lead to a significant decrease in 2020 compared to expectations pre corona. At the same time post lockdown period we do see an increase of used cars sales and increase of domestic lease and rent demand, directly resulting from mixed reasons like preference for own mobility independence solutions at an affordable costs and also an understanding of the need for flexibility and quality through outsourcing mobility solutions.
Also, the present and the future are dominated by the experience, safety, reliability, and trust attributes. A reliable used car allows people to be able to have all these. At Sixt SH (sixtsh.ro) we offer the peace of mind package, meaning the benefits of the 1st owner and 2 years warranty to the cars from our fleet.
In the energy sector, the pandemic seems to have accelerated trends that were already felt in advance, such as the transition to digitization, remote working and many operations being moved in the cloud. Are there trends in the car market that have been strengthened in the context of the pandemic? Have some disappeared, have new ones appeared?
How could someone go about setting plans and targets when the world has different plans for us? At the same time, we all must continue our development, our progress, our education, our creation, our innovation, and our strive for results and achievements.
As I previously mentioned, in spite of the challenging period, the overall car market in Romania has a huge unfulfilled potential, but we need investments in infrastructure development and more favorable and inducing regulatory environment.
The automotive industry is also seeing some changes, some of them also directly connected to mobility of the market to digitalization, remote solutions, and safety and trust attributes acceleration. These resulting in need for flexible mobility solutions that provide safety and trust to users, while enabling users to benefit of independence of mobility.
What is Sixt Group’s main advantage over its competitors, the one that matters most to the company’s customers?
We are the first operational leasing company in Romania and one of the top Rent a Car and Operational Leasing companies on the local automotive market. The Group is unique in its “One-Stop Shop System” and its AlwaysYes concept. Sixt Group Romania is a market leader in its activities, as a direct result of concentrating on providing top quality services, flexibility, tailor made solutions, and partnership to our clients and stakeholders. Through the „One-Stop Shop System”, Sixt Group Romania offers all the services under the same umbrella: operational leasing (www.sixtleasing.ro), rent a car (www.sixt.ro), SH cars (www.sixtsh.ro), new cars (authorized dealer Opel – www.opel-unionmotors.ro) and workshop service – one of the largest in Romania (authorized Dacia, Renault, Opel, and multi-brand – www.union-motors.ro).
The Group strategy is to be flexible and create tailor made solutions for the clients. Majority of Sixt Group Romania clients are using most of the business units at once. Also, due to our Group synergy, having together the rent a car and the operational leasing business units under the same umbrella, Sixt created for SME’s and Start-Up companies the possibility to access the benefits that largely only the big companies have. For Sixt, the client is a partner that receives tailor made innovative and flexible solutions. Sixt Group Romania is also involved in many extracurricular challenging projects in which it aims to give back to the communities. That means #AlwaysYesToEducation.
The trend of increasing share of electric cars in the car fleet in Europe continues to be among the most significant, Romania included. Major car manufacturers announce and launch new electric models all the time. Do you see these developments in the model portfolio proposed by the Sixt Group?
Indeed there is a growing trend globally to move to electric solutions. Definitely we are supportive of these directions. The electric cars trend will amplify as a general need on long term. On short and middle term, the request of the electric cars in our activity is not significant but we do see it increasing step by step. We do believe in electric future, yet we believe that the future is not entirely electric, rather electric is part of the future. Romania has significant need for infrastructure development and regulatory environment support in order to sustain such progress towards electric solutions. In our group, we are also the importers of BYD electric buses to Romania, and we do believe in this domain of public transport that should lead the electric way of Romania and that can help develop Romania green solutions and enhanced mobility for its people.
You took over the position of CEO of Sixt Group Romania in 2017 after six years of activity within the tax consulting and audit company KPMG. What does Romania look like to you now?
I have been living in Romania for 15 amazing years. Many things have changed and developed over this time in all aspects, but what is more encouraging is the knowledge that there is still so much to do and develop and that Romania has such a huge potential, one of the top in Europe, to build a long lasting sustainable growth in all aspects of lives and eventually create what we all want – quality of life to ourselves and loved ones and above all, to leave to our kids and the next generations to come a better world, a better humanity, a better Romania.
This interview firstly appeared in the printed edition of Energynomics Magazine, issued in October 2020.
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