Well, what a year 2020 has been. They say that running a business is very much like a rollercoaster and this year has been a ferocious ride.
It is very easy to forget, as it feels like so long ago, that from November last year until the end of February we were not actually trading due to us refusing renewal terms on our insurance policy as we (and our members) deserved better. We relaunched with a better product and were very excited about going back live again. It was not long afterwards that we started hearing about a virus called COVID-19 and the first lockdown was announced. Rightly so, travel was restricted which meant our business was offline again.
Soon after, everyone was clapping for carers but we wanted to do something more. We wanted to give ‘cars for carers’. Nobody knew how long the lockdown would last, and as a business not bringing in revenue and paying for cars and insurance is not great for the balance sheet, but putting cars to the best use possible was the right thing to do. Seeing social media filled with NHS workers on packed trains, scared not just for their own safety but the safety of all the passengers they were sharing a carriage with. Giving them a car gave them their own safe metal bubble on wheels so they could continue to perform the amazing work they have been doing non stop since COVID-19 was came into our lives. Thank you to all our owners who contributed to the NHS initiative and to the new ongoing discount that is available.
Lockdown then eased and in all honesty, we had not seen demand like it before. Public transport was being avoided at all costs and people wanted to go and see their families, whom they had not seen in a few months. Demand was so high we even launched in a new city with an exciting partnership with Toyota and their hybrid cars. This new demand brought new challenges such as making sure we had enough clean, safe cars that had our contact free QuickStart technology. We never thought that this would be a use case of the QuickStart technology when we were looking into it in 2017. It was developed to give owners and drivers more freedom and less hassle. No need to meet up if you didn’t want to. It was purely luck that this also gave a socially distanced car hire experience that was safer and less hassle than a standard key handover. It has really come into its own with the drivers choosing cars with QuickStart and Instant book the majority of the time.
Lockdown version 2 seemed to come around all too quickly. We had just secured more cars and installed more technology into them to make them safe. Cars were still being used, for the right reasons, but there was an obvious drop in demand when compared to the summer months as essential travel was being advised.
The 5 day Christmas relaxation was announced and for those 5 days, our cars were being booked left right and centre. Those 5 days could not make up for the rest of the year but it was a good ending for the business considering the journey we had been on. Unfortunately, that was not the end and within a few hours of the tier 4 announcement, the majority of our bookings were cancelled (with full refunds of course).
The purpose of this quick summary is to highlight that this year has not been easy, for anyone, but we wanted to thank you personally for being part of our community and for sticking with us. We believe more than ever that cars are still a very important piece in the mobility puzzle, and this was proven during the peak of the pandemic when over 5 years worth of free car hire days were given to NHS workers who needed it most. No mode of transport is perfect for every single journey but if we use the right cars, the right way (the shared way) then together we can reduce car ownership whilst providing an on demand service that will keep the community connected.
We hope that you and your families are safe and well during these still very worrying times. For those who celebrate, we wish you a very merry Christmas and the whole team wishes you all joy and good fortune as we leave 2020 behind and move into the New Year.
From Graeme, Rob and the whole hiyacar team