Undeniably, the COVID-19 pandemic created consumer demand for cars that are not just surface-clean but also have a healthy interior cabin space. Rental car companies responded to this demand by partnering with cleaning companies and enhancing their protocols to show customers that they care about them and are committed to making their cars as clean as possible.
In May 2020, Enterprise, National, and Alamo introduced "The Complete Clean Pledge," which they advertise as "a promise to go above and beyond already rigorous cleaning protocols to implement enhanced sanitizing procedures of our vehicles, shuttles, and branch locations." Hertz offered a 15-point cleaning process following CDC guidelines that is promoted as the "Gold Standard." Avis pledged to "disinfect your rental car like it's our own," and the war to create the cleanest rental cars began.
This commitment to cleanliness is here to stay, and as Chrissy Taylor, Enterprise CEO, recently said, the company with the cleanest cars will win. But cleaning vehicles with the right products and quickly getting them back into rotation are also factors in business success. After all, you can't earn money on a rental car that's not on the road. So, rental companies are now thinking about targeted, thorough, and fast long-term cleaning solutions.
The industry demands safe and effective products that provide fast solutions. But it's no secret that rental car companies face many challenges in today's market. Here are three of the biggest ones:
1. Aging Inventory
According to a recent Car and Driver article, due to the microchip shortage and a large vehicle sell-off during the pandemic, rental car companies are holding onto their fleets longer than usual. The longer these vehicles are part of the fleet, the harder it is to keep them in like-new condition.
During the pandemic, several companies threw products at cars that were made for more general use. By not using products that were specifically made for aging cars, rental companies were hurting more than helping their fleets.
2. High-Mileage Cars
The article also notes that instead of a 25,000- or 50,000-mile cutoff to sell the car, rental companies are letting their cars go beyond 60,000 miles on the odometer. This means they are buying fewer new cars. In his January 2022 article, Chris Brown said that "... It's looking like rental fleet sales will stay depressed through most of 2022." Because rental companies are holding onto their fleets longer, better solutions are needed to preserve their vehicles as the miles accrue.
3. Odors Caused by Lingering Smoke, Vaping, and Marijuana
Recreational marijuana is now legally available in 20 states (and counting). Eight percent of Americans are vaping each week, and traditional cigarette smoke continues to be problematic. Although rental car companies charge a hefty fine for smoking in their cars, it appears that many renters are still willing to risk getting caught. These odors can be difficult to remove with traditional cleaning products.
The Solution: Embrace Industry-Specific Cleaning Solutions
To preserve their fleets and boost customer satisfaction, rental companies must seek out suppliers who understand how to care for their cars. They must look for products created for the auto industry specifically and those that are eco-friendly, efficient, and affordable.
New cleaning techniques are particularly promising. Autonomous delivery systems allow the cleaning treatment to travel throughout the vehicle's HVAC system and create safe, healthy vehicle interiors without added labor costs. These patented products are formulated exclusively for the rental market and are used to treat a broad range of vehicles, from heavy odors and stains to vehicles with even mild or mid-range odors. For the latter, the most common forms of aggressive odor removers — ozone machines, foggers, chlorine-in-a-cup, and fragrances — are often too strong or unsafe to use. This leaves a large number of cars either under-treated or even untreated.
Innovative products, on the other hand, are more eco-friendly than previous generations of cleaners, and the product can reach places that sprays and wipes alone cannot. This allows the products to locate and neutralize persistent odors rather than simply mask them.
Since the COVID-19 Pandemic, Cleanliness Has Taken Centerstage
Older fleets, higher-mileage cars, improper cleaning products, and increased use of cannabis and tobacco products are causing a range of cleanliness challenges for rental car companies. But recently, several new products have emerged to treat these problems in a more modern, efficient, and eco-friendly way. If rental companies can leverage the power of these new, targeted products, they can return the vehicle's interior to like-new condition in minutes and eliminate the time and expense of more manual cleaning processes.
While cost, comfort, and efficiency are important factors in customer satisfaction since the COVID-19 pandemic, car cleanliness has also become a significant yardstick. Companies that can create truly healthy interiors and get vehicles back on the road will have a competitive advantage. And, if, in the process, they can provide consumers with confidence in a healthy commute, they'll have an even bigger win.
Based in Dallas and founded in 2019, NuVinAir is a franchise-supported company that creates healthy vehicle interiors for the automotive industry. With cleaning innovation and patented technology, the market leader caters to rental-car companies, dealerships, and other automotive businesses. Products and programs are sold through its franchisees, who own exclusive rights to their defined territories. To learn more about NuVinAir, visit nuvinair.com and follow their blog nuvinair.com/blog/.