Per Voegerl, Sixt’s commercial director, told What Van? Sixt puts £100 against the account of an SME, which the customer can then redeem over the course of four bookings at £25 each.

With the firm’s daily van rental rates starting from £29, Voegerl is confident the offer will tempt new customers to try out its service before committing to use Sixt on a regular basis.

“The idea is to attract new customers from other companies,” he said.

The scheme is being rolled out across the UK but Sixt expects the biggest take-up to be in London.

Over the last 12 months Sixt said its van rental business had grown 8% overall but increased by 20% in London.

Voegerl said Sixt’s policy of taking on a large number of small business customers had left it less vulnerable in the precarious economic climate than other rental firms, which depended on a small number of large clients.

“It spreads the risk,” he said, “it’s more dangerous with a small number of large customers.”

In the UK Voegerl said 35% of Sixt’s van rental customers are classed as retail customers, but that many of these are clearly SMEs who do not hold corporate accounts with the firm.  Of the 65% remaining, he said just a quarter are large fleets with the rest being small businesses.

Voegerl said small businesses involved with project-driven work, for whom operating a van fleet is not the prime focus but an occasional requirement, are increasingly drawn to renting over buying.

“If you rent you have no finance liability and can return the van when you want.”