The Greening of the Auto Rental Industry

Live Earth. Alternative Energy. Green Building Initiatives. Eco-tourism. The green movement is in full swing, and the corporate world is taking notice: A cleaner environment is good business.

Consumers say they want to do business with companies that are environmentally responsible. Major and independent car rental companies alike are taking steps to capitalize on this trend.

Of course, the devil is in the details, and that raises a host of questions for RAC operators: will consumers really pay more to rent greener vehicles, i.e. hybrids? What is the best way to market my initiatives? Can I “do the right thing” and still manage an ROI?

Early Adopters: Independent RACs
With a niche group of people seeking “eco-rentals,” being among the first companies to dive in has advantages.

“We were green even before it was cool to be green,” says Jim Demb, president of EV Rental Cars, which rents all hybrid-electric vehicles.

The company opened its doors in 1998 and claims to be the first RAC in the United States to rent environmentally friendly vehicles to the public. EV Rental Cars has six locations throughout California and one in Arizona, and maintains 425 to 450 Prius, Civic and Highlander hybrids in its fleet.

Shaun Stenshol owns and operates Maui-based Bio-Beetle car rental.

Renters of Stenshol’s 25-vehicle fleet of unmodified diesel Volkswagens and one Jeep are encouraged to fill up on 100-percent biodiesel, a fuel made on Maui from vegetable oil salvaged from local restaurants. The natural fuel is dispensed from a filling station in town.

Bio-Beetle maintains a small fleet in Los Angeles with a part-time staff as well.

For Stenshol, who also owns a recycling service, green business makes business sense.

“There are a constantly growing number of people who want to spend money on green initiatives,” says Stenshol. “More and more people are realizing that we really have to start focusing on renewable, sustainable technology.”

CONTINUED:  The Greening of the Auto Rental Industry
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