International Car Rental Show Looks to the Future

Chris Brown, executive editor of Auto Rental News, moderated the opening keynote panel on car rental and the future of mobility. Panelists included North Holbrook of Volvo Cars of North America; Mark Thomas of RideCell; and Dan Langford of the Nevada Center for Advanced Mobility.
Chris Brown, executive editor of Auto Rental News, moderated the opening keynote panel on car rental and the future of mobility. Panelists included North Holbrook of Volvo Cars of North America; Mark Thomas of RideCell; and Dan Langford of the Nevada Center for Advanced Mobility.

The International Car Rental Show (ICRS) kicked off on Monday March 27 at Bally's Las Vegas.

Presented in conjunction with the American Car Rental Association (ACRA), the 22nd annual ICRS convention brings together car rental attendees worldwide to discuss and analyze the major issues facing the car rental industry today.

This year, a big topic has been mobility and technology and how these elements will affect the future of transportation. With app-based platforms such as carsharing, car hailing, and peer-to-peer rentals, the on-demand transportation model is gaining momentum. Additionally, the technology of driverless cars is in the near future.

On Tuesday morning, a keynote panel entitled "Car Rental and the Future of Mobility" addressed these fundamental shifts in transportation and how they could affect the business model of car rental.

Panelists included North Holbrook, director of commercial sales of Volvo Cars of North America; Mark Thomas, vice president of marketing for RideCell, a multinational provider of mobility services platforms; and Dan Langford, executive director for Nevada Center for Advanced Mobility, which brings together stakeholders to develop policy around autonomous vehicles and related infrastructure.

Bill Marmion presented during ACRA's general session. Photos by Amy Hercher.
Bill Marmion presented during ACRA's general session. Photos by Amy Hercher.

Thomas discussed how on-demand, shared mobility and autonomous mobility are two trends that are driving disruption for traditional rental companies. To stay up with these trends, he recommended that car rental companies consider implementing counterless car rentals or free-floating car rentals where customers can return vehicles to any location.

"No one owns the market yet," said Thomas. "Rental companies can set up carsharing or counterless services by partnering with mobility and software companies. This way, they can start experimenting and learn what is to come."

During a seminar yesterday, Wesley Hurst of Polsinelli and Leslie Pujo of Plave Koch PLC looked at mobility from a legal perspective and analyzed the new concerns surrounding liability, contracts, insurance, and employment in new models such as automated rentals and carsharing to peer-to-peer systems and transportation network companies (TNCs) like Uber and Lyft.

This year's exhibit hall included a fun zone presented by PurCo Fleet Services. Attendees raced cars and a winner was named each hour.
This year's exhibit hall included a fun zone presented by PurCo Fleet Services. Attendees raced cars and a winner was named each hour.

ACRA's general session covered the importance of rental companies getting involved in politics. Bill Marmion, principal and partner of Purdue Marion & Associates, delivered the speech. As a strategic adviser for government affairs, Marion shared his advice and opinions on how ACRA can effectively communicate on a state and federal level.

"The rental industry should have a bigger voice in politics," said Marmion. "ACRA can help get the rental industry in front of legislators. Make a friend with government officials to help create an advocate for the industry."

Today's programming began with a session on Europcar's view of today's global car rental market and its vision for the future. Marcus Bernhardt, chief commercial officer for Europcar Group, revealed Europcar's recent initiatives, including carsharing, an all-electric car club, a corporate ride-hailing service, and a program that combines medium-term rental with a carsharing option using mobile technology.

"Europcar is testing solutions to figure out what to include in its new mobility platforms," said Bernhardt. "Rental companies need to understand their customers' needs to develop their business models."

During today's breakfast session, Marcus Bernhardt discussed Europcar's vision for the future, including its mobility initiatives.
During today's breakfast session, Marcus Bernhardt discussed Europcar's vision for the future, including its mobility initiatives.

Niche programming included the fourth annual Latin American Meeting designed for car rental operators serving Central America, South America, and the Caribbean as well as Auto Dealer Day, programming for auto dealers looking to strengthen their loaner programs.

The event has also offered several networking opportunities including a cocktail reception, as well as several meals in the expanded exhibit hall, which featured exhibitors offering various services and products for the car rental industry.

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