Lebanon 2017 | TRANSPORT | B2B

In a tough economic climate, the automotive industry is relying on customer service to drive sales and differentiate the market leaders from the pack.

Farid S. Homsi
Vice Chairman & General Manager
Shady Younis
Sales Manager
Advanced Car Rental

How would you evaluate 2016 operations?

FARID S. HOMSI In terms of sales we had good growth in 2016. Year-to-July 2017, Chevrolet grew by 20% in terms of sales and Cadillac grew by 52%. It looks good but to do this we need to stay aggressive and to advertise heavily. We all have targets to achieve and we want to increase sales, but we need to make concessions by reducing our mark-up, otherwise we cannot sustain those sales. At one point, Chevrolet was number 10 in Lebanon and there were around four dealers. Lebanon is too small to have more than one dealer per brand, so Chevrolet decided to just keep us because we had the best performance. Chevrolet today is in the top five and our plan is to hopefully be in the top three in a couple of years in terms of sales. In terms of perception, we are doing well because Chevrolet and Cadillac rank much higher in terms of brand awareness and recognition and the way people perceive the brand today is much better than it used to be.

SHADY YOUNIS By building and maintaining a strong relationship with all its suppliers, guests, and customers, Advanced Car grew from a humble fleet of 30 cars, a team of seven employees, and one branch in 2001 to a fleet of more than 950 cars, a team of over 60 employees, and three branches in the last 15 years. Advanced Car achieved a customer satisfaction index of 93% in the last the years as per Tele-performance, an international company specialized in analyzing and measuring customer experience. It has also been listed as the most recommended car rental service provider in Lebanon for the past five years in The Lonely Planet tourist guide and in French international tourism guide Le Petit Fute for 2014 and 2015. We are recognized by all our major clients for our high-quality services and support.

In a slowly rebounding economy, how do you differentiate your company?

FSH Studies done in the US on the global market show that Chevrolet has been the fastest-growing brand for two years in a row. Of course, it is product related. But to us, it is not only the product; it is also the experience the customer has and the quality of the service. We are happy we have a good retention rate because we measure the number of people that come back for after sales. The benchmark is to have a retention rate of no less than 60%, which we are working to achieve; hence we focus a great deal on service. To us it is the most important area of business.

SY We are the first car rental in the Middle East to launch a carbon-free journey to offset its CO2 emissions through reforestation; this year we are offsetting 230 tons of CO2. Our generation was lucky enough to witness a greener and cleaner side of Lebanon and we want to give the same opportunities to our children by helping as much as we can in bringing back that green Lebanon. As a car rental operator, we are a contributor to the global warming problem. Since switching to electrical cars or hybrids is not feasible at the moment from an infrastructure or business perspective, we came up with the idea to fund reforestation projects in Lebanon. In November 2016, on the occasion of Advanced's 15th anniversary, we collaborated closely with the Lebanon Reforestation Initiative, a program funded by the US Agency for International Development and implemented by the United States Forest Service, to start a long-term green initiative: the carbon-free journey. We rehabilitated an abandoned sand quarry by planting 16,000 trees, offsetting tons of the CO2 emitted by our cars. Our pledge is to continue the reforestation projects to offset 20% of our emissions in the first three years, and we hope to completely neutralize our emissions in the years to come.