IT’S BEEN 38 years since Manuel Caldinha sat in the gardens in the centre of Albufeira contemplating what he should name the car rental company he was about to open. Little did he know that, years later, his 12-car enterprise, Auto Jardim, would become the biggest car rental company in Portugal.
Auto Jardim specialises in renting cars to the public, with 25 offices all over Portugal, as well as bases in Porto Santo, Funchal, Madeira airport and Islantilla, the up-and-coming tourist area in Spain. The company’s commercial director, Eliseu Correia, spoke to The Resident’s Ruth Sharpe about the quality service they strive to provide on a daily basis.
“Often, when companies become big, they become arrogant,” explained Correia. “This is not the case here. We continue to have a family mentality and our customers are a big part of it.” It is this approach that has seen Auto Jardim become such a recognised name, not only in the Algarve but all over Portugal.
The company has over 300 members of staff and takes 180,000 bookings a year, supported by a fleet of 7,000 cars. Ranging from the Chevrolet Matiz to the Ford Transit, or the Mercedes E220 CDI, there is a car suitable for every need. “Sixty-five per cent of our revenue comes from the tourist industry, with a large portion of that from the UK market,” furthered Correia. “We focus 100 per cent on our customers and giving the highest quality of service we possibly can.”
In the Algarve, Auto Jardim have offices in Monte Gordo, Tavira, Faro, Quarteira, Albufeira, Armação de Pêra, Carvoeiro, Praia da Rocha and Lagos, as well as Lisbon and Porto airports. When asked if the company plan to diversify and expand their service, Correia replied: “We wish to diversify the customer rather than diversify our service. We want to focus on what we’re good at and continue to open up new locations rather than offer services that are already covered in the market.”
Auto Jardim are the only Portuguese owned and staffed car rental company in Portugal. The closest competition comes from international companies such as Europcar and Avis, so the fact that Auto Jardim have the majority of the market share gives its employees an enormous sense of pride. Correia himself used to work for a competing firm, but left to join the Albufeira head office eight years ago. In his own words, “if you can’t beat them, join them”.
The company work directly with the customer and do not use a middleman to sell their product. Correia described how they found their success through the modest and humble Portuguese way of serving the customer. “We consider every member of staff part of our family and, when the customer chooses us, we treat them as part of the family as well. A very high ratio of customers return to use our service.”
Auto Jardim regularly offer special deals on their vehicles throughout the year. The majority of cars are replaced every six months with the exception of the more expensive vehicles such as the Mercedes, BMW and Jeep Suzuki, whose quality ensures a much longer life span. The focus is continually on quality at this company and they are confident that they can continue their success far into the future.
• Auto Jardim can be contacted on 289 580 505 or 800 200 613 for reservations. You can also visit www.auto-jardim.com