How One Rent-A-Wreck Franchisee Became a CNBC Star

Ernesto “Sonny” Mongillo, Jr. wasn’t even sure what the fuss was about. After filling out a questionnaire sent from International Franchise Systems, the parent company of his Rent-A-Wreck and Priceless car rental business in Southern Conn., he took a follow-up phone call with more questions.

Ernesto “Sonny” Mongillo, Jr. is part of the Rent-A-Wreck and Priceless franchise systems serving Southern Conn.
Ernesto “Sonny” Mongillo, Jr. is part of the Rent-A-Wreck and Priceless franchise systems serving Southern Conn.

Then CNBC called, asking more questions. “But they still didn’t tell me what it was all about, just that it was a story on franchises,” Mongillo said.

When Mongillo finally saw the link online, he realized he had been named one of CNBC’s Star Franchisees for 2016. “Yeah, I was surprised and excited,” Mongillo said. “It was a little overwhelming. It’s a battle every day, so it’s an honor to be picked.”

Criteria for Selection

Mongillo found out later he was part of an exhaustive selection process that starts with the franchisor.

To be considered for the CNBC distinction, franchisors must submit data to the Franchise Business Review (FBR), a franchise industry market research firm that conducts an annual survey of franchise satisfaction and performance.

FBR evaluates franchisors based on their proof of concept in multiple markets, a review of franchise disclosure documents, the franchisor’s financial performance, franchisee satisfaction, and opportunities for its franchisees to make a return on investment, as well as how the franchisee community regards management.

These criteria narrowed the pool of franchisors in this year’s survey from 900 down to 68, which included Rent-a-Wreck. At that point, CNBC started to look for individual franchisees from those 68 systems and narrowed them down further based on responses to another survey. The survey gauged components of a successful franchise operation, including financial health, franchisee satisfaction, and growth potential.

Responses to the survey were evaluated to create a new list of 1,700 franchisees, from which CNBC selected one representative from each state. “It’s really pretty awesome to see Sonny and Rent-A-Wreck hold up through such an exhaustive process,” said Jason Manelli, vice president of Interfranchise Systems. “We had to demonstrate that we have very satisfied franchisees, and then Sonny had to demonstrate strength within our system and compared to other franchise systems and their franchisees.”

“For our companies, what I really think is working right now is the mutual commitment and accountability from both sides with us and the franchise owners in our system,” Manelli said, adding that the FBR surveys helped to foster that commitment. (Rent-A-Wreck participates, though other car rental franchisors do not.)

“We preach to our franchise owners to listen to their customers — from reviews to surveys, at the counter, and over the phone,” he said. “The customer will tell you everything you need to know if you listen. I feel the same about our franchise owners as our customers, and it’s a constant exercise in listening and adjusting and weighing everyone's interests against the greater good.”  

All in the Family

Ernesto Mongillo, Sr. started selling used cars in 1978 and expanded the business to auto repair, towing, and retail fuel sales. In 1991, after responding to a flyer in the mail to “put your used cars to work,” the younger Mongillo opened up as a Rent-A-Wreck franchisee with five cars. “We decided to give it a shot,” Mongillo said. “We’re proud of starting from nothing out of a used car lot, and we’ve been building it ever since.”

Started in 1978, the business performs auto repair, towing, and retail fuel sales in addition to car rental.
Started in 1978, the business performs auto repair, towing, and retail fuel sales in addition to car rental.

The rental business claims 80 to 90 rental units today, with a mix of insurance replacement, local rentals, and vacation rentals. Mongillo predicts his five locations will do $1 million in revenue for 2016.

As part of the fabric of the local community for so long, Mongillo’s business is dependent on its customer service. “With the name Rent-A-Wreck they expect a ‘wreck,’ and we over deliver on our promises,” Mongillo said. “We know a happy customer will tell two more people but an angry customer will tell 10.”

As for the founder of the company, “Dad comes in every day and puts his two cents in,” Mongillo said.

But in terms of the CNBC distinction, “He doesn’t care too much about that,” according to Mongillo. “If I sold a car and showed him the check he’d have a better reaction. He’s from Italy, the old school.”


  1. Jason Manelli [ May 25, 2016 @ 08:37AM ]

    Congratulations Sonny, I can say I knew you way back when!

  2. Jon Dill [ May 25, 2016 @ 11:57AM ]

    Well done, Sonny!

  3. Malcolm Turpin [ May 25, 2016 @ 01:45PM ]

    Awesome job Sonny...

  4. Pat The Trainer [ May 26, 2016 @ 08:23AM ]

    Congratulations Sonny. You deserve this recognition and so much more. Sonny, you do us proud. Thank you. PS…I’m with dad. Show me the sales! (:

Comment On This Story

Comment: (Max. 10000 characters)  
Please leave blank:
* Please note that every comment is moderated.


Newsletter: Sign up to receive latest news, articles, and much more.

Read the latest

Auto Focus Blog: A blog covering fleets, auto rental and the business of cars

Market Forces Driving Car Rental in 2018

An analysis of the conference calls of Avis Budget Group and Hertz Global Holdings reveal trends and initiatives involving fleet right sizing, pricing, ancillary revenue opportunities, and renting to ride-hailing drivers.

Trends Moving the Truck Market

Storylines that emerged from the 2018 Work Truck Show include the increasing need for on-site productivity, inclusion of active safety systems in trucks, DPF frustrations affecting product decisions, data management, and the growing link between fleet management and company revenue.

MIT Study Reinforces the Newfound Importance of Fleet

Uber and Lyft drivers make far less when factoring vehicle expenses, though the actual numbers are now in dispute. A proper lifecycle cost analysis would’ve helped, and shows the benefit of collaboration with fleet professionals.

Job Finder: Access Top Talent. Fill Key Positions.