Photo by Chris Brown

Photo by Chris Brown

Car rental managers, executives, and employees from corporate, franchised, and independent companies gathered Nov. 6-7 at the Hilton Miami Downtown — a new city and new headquarters hotel for the annual conference.

Now in its sixth year, the Auto Rental Summit welcomed 251 car rental operators and vendors. Attendees traveled from several countries, including Iceland, New Zealand, Spain, Germany, Panama, and Brazil.

This year featured an inaugural add-on event. In a full day of programming on Nov. 8, Fleet Forward Conference plans to address the topic of smart mobility, including shared and connected vehicles and intelligent transportation systems.

Auto Rental Summit’s agenda focused on the theme of “People, Process, and Profits” — the essentials of running an efficient, profitable car rental operation.

Mike Pitcher, speaker, author, and leadership consultant, delivered the keynote address: “The Seven eLements of Leadership for a New Breed of Leader.” As the former CEO of LeasePlan USA, Pitcher has increased bottom line results while improving employee engagement. He presented the seven eLements as laugh, learn, listen, language, lagniappe, legacy, and love.

The Fleet Jam Session, a two-hour block of programming dedicated to fleet issues in car rental, returned for the fourth consecutive year. Jonathan Smoke, chief economist for Cox Automotive, discussed how Hurricanes Harvey, Irma, and Maria have affected fleet in his seminar “Remarketing Big Picture: 2017 and Beyond.” According to Smoke, commercial, government, and rental fleet losses could total as many as 18,500 units.

Neil Abrams, the founder of Abrams Consulting Group Inc., brought more than 40 years of industry knowledge to his seminar “The Evolution of the Personal Mobility Industry — And What It Means to Today’s Rental Operators.” He provided an assessment of the majors, franchise, and independent markets to understand the impact of new transportation models, including the transition to electric vehicles and autonomous vehicles.

Several seminars provided best practices to run a successful car rental operation. Topics included understanding payment processing, brand building through social media, how to avoid common accounting mistakes, tools to prevent lawsuits, and ways to boost Customer Satisfaction Index (CSI).

Two seminars were presented in Spanish for Latin American attendees. Held on Monday morning, the Latin American Meeting answered questions about specific challenges faced by Latin American car rental operators.

Attendees had several opportunities to network throughout the event, including the exhibit hall reception, client dinners, and networking breaks.