Your complete source for everything buzzing in YOUR area

We took to the road to meet Karl Ayling and Simon Parr at Buggs Car Hire, to find out what made them open a car hire business in the car park at Bergerac Airport some 13 years ago.

The two entrepreneurs were friends in the UK before Karl and his wife Sandra moved near to Villeréal in 1996, followed by Simon and his wife Karen in 2002. The four are all involved in the business, with the ladies running the administration side and Simon and Karl at the head of operations. Having started with just three cars, they now employ eight full-time personnel and operate out of three airports, Bergerac, Limoges and, as of last June, Biarritz, with a fleet of over 200 new cars renewed between every six and 14 months.

The company’s ethos stems from their days of trying to hire cars over here themselves.   Simon recalls “We had both experienced our fair share of car rental horrors and knew there had to be a better way. Hiring a car shouldn’t have to be a journey full of fear and trepidation, it should be a relatively stress-free procedure. So we took it on, totally independently, determined to do things our way.”

Driving their own pathway through the monopoly of faceless multi-national car rental companies, they concentrated on the actual rental process and service they wanted to receive when renting a car in a foreign country. It had to be straightforward and easy and, according to reviews, they seem to have achieved exactly that.

Mindful of the fact that their customers include, amongst others, house hunters, business people and, of course, those who are on holiday, the range includes a car for virtually every occasion.

Karl explains, “Our customers may want a fun vehicle to enjoy our countryside, or arrive at a business meeting or venue in style, or need something functional to take the entire family and a few bottles of wine! One thing they do want is a clean, new car that is ready and waiting when they arrive.   We are just dipping our toes into commercial vehicle hire for 2019 too!”

Mindful of the fact that their customers include, amongst others, house hunters, business people and, of course, those who are on holiday, the range includes a car for virtually every occasion.

Karl explains, “Our customers may want a fun vehicle to enjoy our countryside, or arrive at a business meeting or venue in style, or need something functional to take the entire family and a few bottles of wine! One thing they do want is a clean, new car that is ready and waiting when they arrive.   We are just dipping our toes into commercial vehicle hire for 2019 too!”

They also took the brave decision to ignore comparison sites for the simple reason that there is, well, no comparison. Karl explains “Comparison sites tend to use brokers who then sell the bookings to whoever will service them, and that sometimes means no one at all. As the local supplier has 48 hours to refuse the booking, the biggest problems usually occur when the booking is made at short notice. Until the local supplier accepts the booking, the contract is with the comparison site, not the car hire company, who will then issue a new contract, if they accept the booking. It can be very confusing. Travellers really can arrive to find that the booking has not been accepted and there is no car available.

“That’s definitely not something we want to be associated with”, adds Karl. “This is why we only accept bookings direct, through our website. This means the booking is confirmed, the car is confirmed, the price our customers see is the price they pay, with no hidden surprises or extras over and above those that have been selected, and that’s guaranteed.”

Other entrepreneurs will be glad to know that the setting up of the company was different but no more complicated than in the UK. The most beneficial move they made was to employ an established accountancy practice who understands the French system intimately, to guide them. This year their biggest challenge will be Brexit and the uncertainty that it brings. However, with over 5,000 customers in 2018 and more cars on the way and more branches under consideration, the future is looking very bright indeed.

Quality customer service is key and, for the team at Buggs, this even extends further than the hire of the car. Karl recalls leaving the airport one day following one of their customers who was driving on the wrong side of the road. He tried to get his attention, flashing and honking but the driver carried on. Karl was able to pull level and, whilst driving side by side, shouted “you’re driving on the wrong side of the road” to which the driver’s wife nudged her husband and said….”told you so”. Thankfully they pulled across behind him and made it out of the Airport on the right side.   That’s customer care for sure!

For more information go to www.buggscarhire.com

 

First published in the March/April 2019 issue of The Local Buzz.

Images: Buggs Car Hire and Shutterstock