At this year’s Car Rental Show in Las Vegas, keynote speaker Pat Farrell, chief marketing & communications officer for Enterprise Holdings, kicked off the annual conference on Monday April 7 by noting that future innovation and growth in the car rental industry – local as well as global – depend on staying in close touch with the changing wants and needs of the consumer.
Farrell noted that the car rental industry is experiencing major change from such factors as new innovative technologies and evolving consumer preferences. He cited changes in customer preferences due to new digital and mobile technology as the largest driver of change — and opportunity — in the industry.
“Technology — from the Internet, to social media, to mobile platforms — has truly put the consumer in control,” he said. “The better we use these avenues, the stronger our customer loyalty and relationships will be.”
“Everything we do is underpinned by consumer research,” Farrell added, “but the most effective form of research still comes down to one simple thing: listening to consumers.”
Farrell stressed the need for the industry to keep adapting and evolving: “I can still remember when car rental was strictly an on-airport proposition. Today, the off-airport category is equally relevant. It began with insurance replacement. Then it evolved to consumer direct business and people renting cars in their home town for day-to-day needs. And now it’s a multibillion dollar category. It’s all about meeting consumer mobility needs. Car sharing — or hourly car rental — is just another innovation in an innovative industry … and just one more way for us to serve our customers.”
Farrell also called attention to issues that threaten the industry’s future growth and viability, placing particular emphasis on unfair and regressive car rental taxes. While the industry has been fighting these taxes for decades, Farrell noted that every state now has some type of excise tax on car rentals, and that car renters have paid billions in car rental excise taxes at the state, county or municipal level.
“We object to the excessive and undue burden of excise taxes that single out our customers to carry a disproportionate share of the funding burden for local projects such as sports stadiums, arenas and art museums. Taxes should be fair and just and should not single out customers of just one industry,” he said, going on to urge his audience to continue fighting these unjust taxes on behalf of the consumers that are forced to pay them.
Farrell concluded by summing up the opportunity ahead: “The car rental industry meets people’s very real, important and urgent needs. There is a true purpose and honor in what we do. Our world will continue to change: innovation will drive growth, technology will drive growth and customer preferences will drive growth. Whether we — as individual companies or an industry — succeed or fail will come down to one simple thing — how we deal with each customer.”