Celebrating its 20th anniversary, the 2015 International Car Rental Show brought together more than 800 attendees from across the U.S. and overseas.
Located at Bally’s Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas, this year’s conference featured the most programming in history. It was “officially” held from April 13 and 14, but kicked off in the afternoon on Sunday April 12 and continued through Wednesday April 15. This year’s expanded exhibit hall featured 90 exhibitors, providing various services and products for the car rental industry.
To reflect its place as the only convention that serves the entire car rental community on a global scale, the conference was renamed the International Car Rental Show. International attendees traveled from 33 different countries, including China, Nigeria, New Zealand, Russia and Brazil.
This year’s show featured special events designed for international attendees, including a seminar entitled “International Operators: Keys to Growing U.S. Business,” an international meet and greet networking session and the second annual Latin American meeting.
Held on Wednesday April 15, the Latin American meeting was designed for car rental operators serving Central America, South America and the Caribbean. Sessions included topics on the latest technology, improving service and sales performance, creating revenue opportunities with the U.S. traveler and advantages to going green.
In a departure from the single-presenter keynote format of previous years, the show kicked off with a keynote panel comprised of Susan Lombardo, vice president vehicle acquisition at Enterprise Holdings; Greg Thibault, vice president fleet disposal at Avis Budget Group; Bob Barton, vice president leisure brands & franchise operations RAC Americas – Hertz Global Holdings; Joe Knight, vice president, business development, Fox Rent-A-Car Inc.; and Caroline Costello, senior manager – large daily rental sales at Fiat Chrysler Automobiles.
The panel discussed key drivers of today’s car rental market, including fleet acquisitions and disposal, operational issues, franchise and manufacturer relations and legislative challenges.
“Manufacturers have discovered that car rental – regardless of whether it’s for an hour, a day, a week or longer – is a significant link in the automotive value chain,” said Lombardo. “That means we can help automakers maintain and even grow market share.”
The increase in recalls came up in the panel discussion. "We are getting better with the recall process," said Thibault. "We are improving communication with our auto manufacturers."
The American Car Rental Association (ACRA) board of directors led its annual association update and seminar with a panel that included Sally Greenberg from the National Consumers League and Greg Scott, ACRA’s new lobbyist. To support the fight against discriminatory rental car excise taxes, ACRA developed the Curb Automobile Rental Taxes Coalition or CART. The campaign is designed to get ACRA’s legislation (HR 1528, “End Discriminatory State Taxes on Automobile Renters Act of 2015”) in Congress, passed and signed into law.
The two-day show concluded with sessions focused on carsharing and the future of transportation.
Entitled “The Convergence of CarSharing and Car Rental,” this panel discussion — led by Alan Woodland, executive director of the CarSharing Association — looked at how carsharing is evolving and how it could affect traditional car rental. Panelists included Julian Espiritu from Abrams CarSharing Advisors, Kyle Sabie from Enterprise CarShare, Diego Solorzano from Mexico’s carsharing company Carrot and Rujul Zaparde from FlightCar.
“Carsharing is blurring into car rental,” said Sabie. “Carsharing is a car rental transaction, whether you rent for an hour or a week and whether you do it in person or digitally.”
"Since we started our carsharing operation in Mexico City three years ago, we already have 10,000 customers," said Solorzano. "People are willing to pay more for a quicker process and more convenience."
The closing session “Car Rental and the Future of Transportation” featured a panel of experts that discussed how technology, travel demographics, the legislative climate and carsharing are all shaping the future of transportation.
Panelist Christopher Agnew of MKM Partners emphasized that renting cars won’t change, but it could get more flexibility with renting by the hour and self-service rentals. “It will be consumer-led,” he says. “The younger generation demands a different transportation approach.”
Concurrent sessions featured various topics including how to manage negative online reviews, how to grow your business internationally, how to handle a legal claim made against you and tips for the right incremental sales program.
New for 2015, the conference featured “lightning rounds,” or four mini seminars packed into an hour and 15 minutes. These 15-minute presentations delivered insight on new products and services, best practices and new trends advancing the car rental process. The lightning rounds were presented in two concurrent sessions, four to a room.
Also new for 2015, the show provided content specifically geared toward car dealerships looking to upgrade their rental programs. Seminars covered topics such as misconceptions to dealership rentals, managing rental risk in dealerships and the role of software in dealership operations.
The 2016 International Car Rental Show will be held April 18-19 at Bally’s Hotel and Casino.
Story and photos by Amy Winter.