Since the founding of the car rental industry over a century ago, there have been multiple external disruptive forces to impact the industry — the last 20 years being the most tumultuous. - Image via freeIMG.net/supervennix.

Since the founding of the car rental industry over a century ago, there have been multiple external disruptive forces to impact the industry — the last 20 years being the most tumultuous.

Image via freeIMG.net/supervennix.

The first Car Rental Show — then called the Auto Rental News Show — attracted 525 car rental operators and vendors to the Mirage in Las Vegas in 1996. Dave (J.D.) Power was the keynote speaker. In 1999, the event name was changed to the Car Rental Show and attracted 1,000 attendees.

In the years following, Bill Lobeck, who ran Dollar Thrifty at the time, keynoted. And then there was Denny Hecker, who appeared on stage in 2008 with Bill Plamondon in a green shirt for impromptu announcement that Advantage would be the first “green” car rental company.

Larry De Shon delivered the keynote in 2011, when he was still president of International for Avis Budget Group, but was on a fast track to head the company. Mark Frissora delivered the keynote in 2012 with Gary Rappeport of Donlen, its just-purchased fleet management division. And then there was Congressman Sam Graves — author of the Graves Amendment — who also spoke in 2012. The standing ovation he received may never be equaled at the event.

For all the realities that the industry is run by corporations, and it is, the show itself has always attracted the entrepreneurs. They are woven into its fabric, befitting its history as an antidote to what the previous car rental association’s event had turned into.

History tells us that the car rental industry was birthed with the first cars rented by Hertz (and Sixt in Europe) over 100 years ago. Since then, there have been multiple external disruptive forces to impact the industry — the last 20 years being the most tumultuous.

The Car Rental Show was held less than a month after the 9/11 terrorist attacks. Many attendees hadn’t yet located all their cars. In the latter half of the decade, CRS, along with the industry, suffered through the worst Recession since the Great Depression. The show went on, and the industry roared back.

There was a time coming out of the Great Recession when the concept of carsharing was taking hold, which seemed to impinge on the traditional car rental model itself. Any reexamination of a business model is healthy, of course. Many thought carsharing would “kill” the car rental industry, though that never happened.

But last year topped them all. It’s safe to say that 2020 was the single most disruptive year in business for anyone alive today. Who could’ve predicted that a threat of grave illness or death would crush our ability to even gather in person to talk about the craziness? There will be a select group of attendees this year — perhaps bigger than expected — who will have made it to the event after each of these momentous events. Talk about a group of survivalists.

About a year ago, when all travel-related verticals were on life support, who could’ve predicted with any certainty that the large and small companies making up the car rental industry would still be in business today — and stronger than ever?

The pandemic forced a reexamination of the car rental model 10 times greater than the “threat” of carsharing. And now those carsharing technologies are finally creating those essential efficiencies in the incumbent car rental model. They’re bringing new entrepreneurs into the space with great tech and big ideas. They also realize that the seasoned car rental operators know the secret sauce — fleet.

From one external disruption to another over the last century, we’ve learned that personal transportation is a necessity. That’s not going away; it will just take new forms. For this reason, we gather to figure it all out.

In conjunction with its partner through thick and thin, the American Car Rental Association (ACRA), the ICRS will once again convene in person Aug. 15-17 at Caesars Las Vegas. We’re working hard on the agenda now and will announce it to the world very soon.

We’re admittedly a bit behind this year. But the agenda will be as robust as you remember it — big-picture keynotes, deep-dive sessions, exhibit hall interaction, networking opportunities, and the face-to-face interaction that is the cornerstone of the show.

The show — now named the International Car Rental Show (ICRS) in deference to the strong international presence — is for everyone. We gather with the corporates, entrepreneurs, survivalists. The stalwarts and the new blood. The key stakeholders. To figure it all out.

It’s good to be back. We have so much to talk about. I’ll see you in Vegas.

Author

Chris Brown
Chris Brown

Executive Editor

Chris Brown is the executive editor of Business Fleet, Auto Rental News and Fleet Forward. Through these publications and related trade events, Chris covers all aspects of the fleet world, including fleet management, the new mobility ecosystem, manufacturer fleet activities, the fleet leasing industry, vehicle remarketing, and rental industry news.

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Chris Brown is the executive editor of Business Fleet, Auto Rental News and Fleet Forward. Through these publications and related trade events, Chris covers all aspects of the fleet world, including fleet management, the new mobility ecosystem, manufacturer fleet activities, the fleet leasing industry, vehicle remarketing, and rental industry news.

View Bio
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