The Oxford English Dictionary defines keystone as “a central stone at the summit of an arch, locking the whole together.”
The Keystone of the Arch
As I looked around the packed conference room in the United States Capitol in mid-September during the D.C. 2022 Car Rental Conference, it occurred to me that a “keystone” is the best way to describe our national trade association — ACRA. That is true whether it is the symbiotic relationship between car rental operators and companies who supply those operators with goods and services, or the political alliance inherent in the membership of large, multi-billion-dollar global car rental operators in the same trade association as an operator with a single location and a fleet of 15 cars. Or the operational lessons that can be learned by new entrants in the industry from industry “veterans” who faced the same challenges a couple of years ago and overcame them.
In each instance, ACRA acts as the keystone for the United States’ car rental industry. All sizes of operators — from Enterprise with over 50 years in operation and 1 million rental vehicles to Xclusive Auto Club that has been in business for a year and has 15 rental vehicles — belong to ACRA to contribute to its success and to learn from their fellow operators.
All business models are welcome within ACRA, from airport operators to insurance replacement and local rentals, to operators who rent vehicles to Uber and Lyft drivers, to operators who rent vehicles on peer-to-peer platforms, to specialty rental operators such as Edge (movie industry) and my company, Bandago (entertainment industry). All of these “stones” of the U.S. car rental industry’s “arch” are locked together by the “keystone” of ACRA. Without that keystone, the arch fails. With that keystone, the arch becomes immensely stronger and supports the weight of many stones above it.
Legislative Issues to Watch
ACRA’s leaders are focused on growing ACRA both in terms of membership and our services to members both large and small. On Capitol Hill and in state capitals around the nation, large and small operators are joining forces to promote laws that benefit the industry and improve the bottom line of each ACRA member company. For instance, two central focuses of the D.C. conference were the looming sunset of full expensing for personal property (scheduled to drop to 80% in 2023) and the “electrification” of the nation’s rental fleet, whether at airports or for local rentals.
In the states, ACRA members large and small are combining to promote laws that benefit the industry and to oppose proposals that would harm U.S. car rental operators. Last year, the industry achieved a significant victory in California through a new law that increased loss damage waivers. This year, as I write this column, an industry-backed vehicle license fee bill is awaiting the signature of New York’s governor. In 2023, however, as states begin to seek new revenue amid the economic downturn, ACRA members must be on the watch in Massachusetts, California, and other “bellwether” states for proposals to increase discriminatory car rental excise taxes or change the sales tax treatment of car rental acquisitions.
Together, the members of ACRA will continue to look to ACRA as the “keystone” for the industry in 2023 and beyond. We have achieved much together in the last several years, and the future looks bright for an industry that works together to promote growth, demand, and consumer satisfaction.
Editor's Note: This blog appeared in the 2023 Auto Rental News Fact Book! Find it and more insights and stats about the industry, online soon.