Car Rental Show 2009: Finding Opportunity in the New Economy

Last year, the car rental industry turned into an amusement park of sorts.

With the bankruptcy of a major independent, the pullout of a major funding source, the credit crunch, lessened travel demand, the topsy-turvy wholesale market, the stagnant new car market and the troubles of the auto manufacturers, the auto rental industry suffered one of the worst roller coaster rides in years.

On March 30-31 at the Las Vegas Hilton, more than 400 professionals from the independent, licensee and corporate sides of the auto rental community caught their breath to take stock of the industry during the 2009 Car Rental Show (CRS).

People came looking for answers and opportunity in a radically changed car rental landscape. They found it within two full days of education, entertainment and networking.

Schedule Expanded
This year’s show, presented once again in conjunction with the American Car Rental Association (ACRA), featured an expanded schedule and an interactive format.

In a pre-show seminar on Monday morning, Jim Schalberg and CIRAS (the Center for International Retail Automotive Standards) held the Rental Car Professional Certification workshop, the first accreditation program of its kind in the industry.

“The rental industry now has a standard to gauge ourselves, our employees and our people,” said Schalberg.

Concurrently, the Tennant Group Roundtable, consisting of a select number of non-competing car and truck rental operators, held a session open to all CRS attendees. The Roundtable forum covered a comparison of revenue and expense ratios in actual car rental operations.

Additionally, roundtable members presented a profit idea to the group, who then voted on the best idea. Monty Merrill, a Dollar and Thrifty licensee in San Antonio, Texas, won for his “Road Safe” incremental product offering. (See 4 Profit article.)

The Tuesday breakfast was transformed into a roundtable session. Attendees rotated between 13 tables hosted by a moderator, with topics ranging from “Understanding the Economic Stimulus Package” and “Fleet Financing Challenges in Today’s Economic Climate” to “Is Your Business PCI Compliant?” and “Driving Reservations to the Independent Operator.”

In a separate meeting, a group of operators gathered to strategize on accessing TALF (Term Asset-Backed Securities Loan Facility) funds for auto rental fleets.

The ACRA panel discussion touched on this and other industry concerns, such as the continued fight against predatory excise taxation of the car rental industry, legislation that would require verification of driver’s license information and the challenges to the Graves amendment, which overturned vicarious liability.

The rallying cry on the need for guaranteed reservations was raised once again in several seminars.

CONTINUED:  Car Rental Show 2009: Finding Opportunity in the New Economy
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