In Memoriam: Fred A. Mudgett

Have you got this car rental thing figured out yet?

If you’re enjoying any success, the right answer is no—change is constant, and new challenges arise almost daily. But you’ve got the computer programs, metrics, tools, support staff and the interconnectivity with fellow operators to meet and solve those challenges.

The industry wasn’t always this way. In an era when power was centralized and the channels of information were few, there was one man who was directly responsible for the business health of many car rental operators. His name was Fred Mudgett.

The Franchise Land Rush

Born May 22, 1920, in Waukegan, Ill., Fred Austin Mudgett lays claim to a footnote in history outside of car rental. As a meteorologist for the Army Air Corps in World War II, he made the call to inform General Eisenhower that the weather was clear for the D-Day Invasion.

Prepare yourselves: The next 50 years is all car rental.

Mudgett’s career began in the bustle of postwar America, when licensees from Hertz and Avis were in a land rush for new territories and Warren Avis was convincing airports they needed rental counters.

That push for growth meant that licensees had just as much, if not more power than their corporate parents. Mudgett learned the business of car rental under the tutelage of Dick Robie, a Hertz licensee in New England who bought Avis’s franchise system from him and moved the Avis corporate headquarters to Boston.

“If you wanted to buy a franchise you’d talk to Fred Mudgett,” recalls Kenneth Wright, an Avis franchisee for 53 years.

Wright met Mudgett at an Avis convention in Boston in 1955. Mudgett ran the meeting, which featured as the keynote speaker George Romney, president of American Motors, future three-time governor of Michigan and father of a young son named Mitt.

Mudgett left the licensee side that year to take a job at the Hertz Corporation in Chicago. In 1960 he was tapped by Bob Smalley to oversee the marketing in Hertz’s nascent International division.

CONTINUED:  In Memoriam: Fred A. Mudgett
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  1. Adanac jack [ March 22, 2015 @ 09:09AM ]

    Did mudgett not work with a Canadian named Jim who was Fred's boss and who dealt with the dollar clean up and who was also instrumental in the snappy deal with TItterud, it seems Jim is never mentioned in this news publication, I also believe he was tennants fathers original partner and co founder of Holiday rent a car which later became Thrifty in partnership with Lobeck, arch and al and Jim phillion was also involved at the time, this is all before the sale of thrifty to Chrysler, jim was again a partner of lobeck, arch, and al swanner when they purchased national from gm and than Tilden in Canada. Fred Mudgett was a wonderful man and a great car rental consultant and he was a key piece in the restructuring of dollar Florida and the snappy car rental deal with TItterud as well as the Lindos becoming dollar tour , Jim Letang was the defacto Pentastar Florida consultant who mmudgett reported to and was an old friend in new and low places. The situation with dollar in Florida was very scary but Letang and mudgett cleaned it up and stabilized it. Bill Lobeck is the greatest success story in the history of the car rental business besides the Taylor's who are the enterprise company that was built from the ground up and is still operating as a private company and eventually purchased national /Alamo.The best thing Fred ever did was to leave hertz,it's a name with almost as much recognition as Toyota but it hasn't been in the real world for over 40 years, it's a sad but real truth that the hertz corporation, Avis, and for a large part part budget the so called big three of rent a car were so lazy that they sat on the sidelines and let enterprise become the giant they are.

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