LONDON -- Avis Europe Plc, the second-biggest car rental company in Europe, is planning to capitalize on the popularity of car-sharing schemes by offering an hourly rental program throughout Europe this year, CEO Pascal Bazin said.
"You can rent hourly in the city, and if you need a nice convertible on the weekend, you can go out of the city," Bazin said in a telephone interview.
The company is likely to double the 45 existing stations offering hourly rental over the next year, he said.
Avis Europe, majority owned by Belgian automobile dealer D'Ieteren SA, is capitalizing on a trend led by car sharing schemes including Daimler AG's car2go and BMW AG's DriveNow, that allow vehicles to be hired by the hour, mainly to urban residents.
The company is also looking to expand in China and India, where growth is faster than in Europe. Reservations are growing at a rate of 10 percent or more in China and Avis Europe, which now has about 40 outlets in China, plans to have 100 by the end of 2012, Bazin said.
"This is one of the fastest-growing markets in the world for our business," he said. "People are driving more and more cars, traveling by airplane more and more."
The poor condition of roads is hampering expansion in India, he said.
Avis Europe's rental income rose 5.2 percent in the four months through the end of April compared with the same period a year earlier, led by gains in corporate and insurance hires, the England-based company said Tuesday in a statement.