ACRA leader and industry advocate Joe Knight worked diligently to get ACRA from a place of infancy and instability to a trusted and respected organization that almost every car rental operation in America of any size belongs to.  -  Photo: Joe Knight

ACRA leader and industry advocate Joe Knight worked diligently to get ACRA from a place of infancy and instability to a trusted and respected organization that almost every car rental operation in America of any size belongs to.

Photo: Joe Knight

This column appears in the newly released 2024 Auto Rental News Fact Book

To everything there is a season, and as the seasons turn, we bid farewell to our dear friend Joe Knight, who passed away in November 2023. Among the many, many things he did in his life, Joe served as president of the American Car Rental Association (ACRA) for five years, and as a member of the board of directors for much longer.

Joe was a friend, mentor, and colleague to me, and I was grateful for his wisdom every time he shared it with me. He worked diligently to get ACRA from a place of infancy and instability to a trusted and respected organization that almost every car rental operation in America of any size belongs to — or should — if they have any sense!

We stand on the shoulders of those who came before us, and Joe not only brought us all to a greater height, but he also left behind some huge shoes to fill. We’ll miss you Joe, thank you for being there for us.

One season that is just beginning is the era of electric vehicles (EVs). If you are even remotely adjacent to the car rental industry, you are likely already fatigued from constantly hearing about EVs. Every conference and every meeting are full of panels, conversations, and opinions on EVs.

But recently there has been signs that the hype has outpaced reality: Chargers are not as prevalent as they need to be, manufacturers are cutting back on production and lowering prices — in some cases by painfully large amounts — and consumer demand for EVs has softened. I don’t think we should read too much into this. There are often lulls and valleys in technological progress.

Scientific American pronounced in 1909 that cars had “practically reached the limit of [their] development” after noting very little progress in the prior year. Of course, with the benefit of hindsight, we now know that advancements in vehicle technology and infrastructure were only just beginning.

We’re seeing a very similar dynamic play out right now. We can count on charging stations to proliferate, and battery technology to become more efficient. Manufacturers will continue to make more EVs, and the public will only become more interested as performance gains and cost savings are realized.

We know this will happen not only because there is substantial commercial interest from both manufacturers and vendors, but also because the government is investing billions of dollars in building out the charging network, incentivizing commercial production, and laying the regulatory groundwork for the next major surge in growth. As the EV network becomes more robust, and EVs become more efficient, there will eventually be a moment when EVs are clearly the cheaper and better choice.

Once that moment has been reached, there will be no turning back. The season of the internal combustion engine will come to an end.

ACRA’s task is to help our industry, and all our members, navigate this change as efficiently as possible. We have been growing our membership and educating our members on the changes in front of us.

Last year we launched the D.C. Conference, which has put more car rental operators directly in front of legislators than ever before. Our cocktail reception was attended by no less than three U.S. Senators.

ACRA’s influence is growing, and we plan to grow it even more in 2024. Joe helped lay the groundwork for this; now we have to continue the work. The seasons may be changing, but we’re going to change with them, and come out stronger than ever.

Sharky Laguana, president of the American Car Rental Association  -  Photo: Sharky Laguana

Sharky Laguana, president of the American Car Rental Association

Photo: Sharky Laguana

ACRA’s Mission Statement

The American Car Rental Association was founded to better monitor and document legal, public policy, and legislative issues affecting our industry.

ACRA helps drive industry and category growth by advocating and lobbying with elected officials on behalf of all rental car industry competitors, consumer advocates, and other key stakeholders at the federal, state, and municipal levels.

Sharky Laguana is president of the ACRA board of directors and president and CEO of Bandago Van Rental.

 

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