CarTrawler sets out vision for growth after ECI deal

CarTrawler could look to expansion beyond its core car hire sector following investment from ECI Partners.

Travolution broke the news of the management buy-out on Sunday, a deal the Dublin-based car hire consolidator and technology provider had been pursuing for some time.

Bobby Healey, CarTrawler CTO, said the firm would target the same level of growth following the injection of funds as it has been experiencing in recent years.

“In the last four years we have seen 60% year on year growth,” he said adding ultimately the firm could look to provide other product to its distribution partners including hotels, airlines and travel agents.

“We address 20 million airline passengers a year with car rental. Why can’t we sell them something else? Look at Heathrow, in some cases it’s not really relevant to offer car rental.”
Healy said prior to the ECI deal the firm had attracted interest from trade suitors but he said the business “did not want to go down that route”.

“We have had trade interest for a number of years but the nature of our business does not belong in a trade environment as a trade sale. We are going to continue growing the way we are at the same speed we are.”

A major focus in the immediate future for CarTrawler will be its new mapping technology that shows live availability and pricing and will open up city centre car hire locations in a way that has not been available before.

Healy said: “We released new product at the start of the year which we call our mapping product. It enables car rental for downtown locations in a way no one has done before, not even Google can do this.”

This is expected to be of particular interest to hotel groups and travel management companies as CarTrawler looks to focus on its business to business relationships and white label partners.

Healy said 60% of car rental bookings are from city centre locations but this has been an area the trade has been unable to properly access unlike often more expensive airport locations. Funds from the ECI deal will also be used to spearhead growth in the US and in Latin America, India and Asia, Healey said.

The firm already works in 29 languages and deals with some Latin American carriers are imminent. Healy said previously profits funded product development but that it now had more funds to develop.

“The product and research and development risk has now been eliminated. We have a mature product, what we need now is scale,” he said.

New chairman Richard Prosser, former boss of Tui Travel specialist division, said: “I was introduced as chairman by ECI during the latter stages on the transaction which is helpful because it’s given me a good insight into the business.

“The part of Tui I ran was in the specilaist area so I bring some experience of international markets, particularly Europe, north America and emerging markets. I also like working with businesses like CarTrawler who are experiencing high growth phases and working out how to position the business for growth.

“There are lots of excellent growth characteristics and there is a legacy of understanding the car rental business going back many years plus an excellent management team and a young management team with energy.”

Prosser has worked with ECI before when it sold Laterooms to Tui and he said they have a good track record in travel with previous involvement with Hoseasons, Kirker Holidays and Sunsail.

He said although CarTrawler was looking for organic growth it would not rule out growing by acquisition is the right opportunity came along.

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