Paul Revel talks to Regine Sixt, senior executive vice-president of marketing at Sixt
Marketing jargonists would probably describe Regine Sixt as a ‘brand asset’. As an ambassador for the family-run Sixt car hire business, she has an international profile that’s remarkably higher than your typical car rental executive.
After an education in Munich, followed by studying languages in Cambridge and Paris, Regine joined Sixt in 1976, the same year that she married Erich Sixt, now the company’s CEO. As she puts it: “I was not only fascinated by him, but also by the company.” Sixt was started by Martin Sixt, Erich’s grandfather, in 1912, with seven vehicles.
“It really is unique,” says Regine. “A car rental company that’s been successfully moving forward for four generations in the family. It survived the first and second world wars. In 1927 Martin handed over operations to his son Hans. The entire fleet was confiscated in 1943, but in 1945 Hans re-started business with three cars he had hidden in a stable. Hans’ son, my husband, joined the business in 1969.”
The company now operates in more than 100 countries, including 150 branches in the UK. As senior executive vice-president of marketing, Regine’s role includes heading up Sixt’s involvement in industry events and trade shows, and overseeing the design of everything from uniforms to customer reception areas. “My main role in Sixt has been as a firefighter – to be wherever I’m needed,” she says.
She’s also passionate about her charity, the Regine Sixt Children’s Aid Foundation. “The Foundation is close to my heart, and it’s very important to our employees. We are contributing in schools, hospitals and education, and with emergency aid. We brought help to the Philippines and Pakistan, and helped in Dresden after the flood.” Sixt cars are also used to help children’s hospices, and staff give their free time to projects. Her work has won her a host of accolades, including the Scopus Award from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem and the Golden Victoria for Integration, awarded by the German Association of Magazine Publishers for promoting a positive image of Germany abroad.
Talking of reputation abroad, like other car rental companies, Sixt relies on franchise partners in some destinations. So how can you be sure of maintaining brand standards? “It’s our obligation to the brand and our customers to ensure that franchise partners’ management and service quality meet Sixt standards,” she says.
“Our strategy is to work with strong partners who have good experience of the local market, and know the wishes and needs of the customers in their area. And, of course, the range of vehicles in their fleets needs to be attractive, too.”
Indeed, offering premium brand cars appears to be an important part of Sixt’s strategy: “Sixt has the largest BMW fleet in the world and, on average, has more than 60 per cent BMW, Mercedes and Audi vehicles as part of the fleet.”
The UK is “a low-cost market and very price-aggressive,” she says – but even here Sixt focuses on premium services, though value is also crucial. She cites the example of Heathrow T5, where a customer can get from arrival hall to car in five minutes.
Regine adds that a key strategy when entering new markets is to create partnerships with national airlines and hotel chains on incentive and loyalty schemes. “This helps in creating customers for Sixt, and establishing the brand in the new territory.”
Last December, Sixt launched its Drive Now car sharing-style members’ club in London. The scheme features a booking app and by-the-minute rates, plus free public parking in three London boroughs (Sixt hopes to strike further agreements with boroughs across the capital). “Innovative concepts like Drive Now will play an increasingly important role in the future,” says Regine. “Especially in big cities where they’re beneficial to reduce traffic and offer an alternative to other forms of mobility.”
I ask Regine how Sixt is targeting business travel in a competitive market. “Business travellers need to be able to rely on arriving at the right place at the right time,” she says. “The travel manager wants excellent value for money, from long-term contracts to last-minute demand.”
Technology is also an important aspect for buyers and their travellers, says Regine. “Corporate customers want fast, uncomplicated booking procedures, and we’re innovating with our online booking system and app.” This, she believes, is an indicator of the future for the car rental sector: “The biggest game-changer will be ‘digitalisation’ in the industry – seamless, paperless car rental procedures, from reservation to point-of-sale.”
Regine Sixt is senior executive vice-president of marketing at international car rental company Sixt. She also leads the Regine Sixt Children’s Aid Foundation as a chairwoman, and is the Honorary Consul of Barbados in Germany. She joined Sixt in 1976.
Sixt was listed on the German stock exchange in 1986, and today it is the largest German car rental company, with a revenue of €1.6 billion, over 4,000 employees, and more than 220,000 vehicles and 4,000 locations worldwide.