More than 400 industry professionals from the independent, licensee and corporate sides of the auto rental industry convened March 31-April 1 at the Las Vegas Hilton for the 2008 Car Rental Show.
Presented in conjunction with the American Car Rental Association, the show featured two days of education, entertainment and networking.
The rallying cry at this year’s show was for a united industry to continue the unfair excise tax fight as well as to consider other issues such as new metrics to measure the health of the industry, standardizing car classifications, implementing cancellation fees and rate fairness.
Bill Connors of the National Business Travel Association opened the show with an outlook on business travel.
NBTA predicts an increase in travel spending in the car rental sector of 5-7 percent for 2008, Connors reported. NBTA predicts that travel will continue to grow faster than overall GDP, though consumer and business travel behavior is altering in the face of rising air fares, hotel rates and high gasoline prices.
Sean Busking, director of the American Car Rental Association, presented the “good, the bad and the ugly” in this year’s excise tax fight. Wins include the defeat of a $15 car rental fee to fund a light rail system in Southern Wisconsin.
Incoming ACRA President Bob Barton of U-Save Car & Truck Rental challenged the Association to rally the industry around standards for car classifications and to consider adopting reservations deposits.
Tom Kontos of ADESA gave the 10,000-foot view of the used car market.
While domestic manufacturers’ sales to rental fleets continue to decline, the Japanese and Korean marques have picked up some of the slack. Kontos said the present soft remarketing environment makes it tougher to sell risk units. However, Kontos believes the government’s stimulus efforts will have a positive impact on the used car market this spring.
Sandy Miller of U-Save Car & Truck Rental presented the closing keynote. Miller explained the need for alternate benchmarks for Wall Street analysts to evaluate the industry such as a greater emphasis on growth in yield over transactional growth and same store sales.
Miller called out the numerous detrimental practices that have beset the auto rental industry, including guaranteed reservations, predatory city surcharges and use taxes, high credit card processing rates, barriers to airport entry, the free upgrade mindset and the lack of access to the insurance replacement market, among others.
He involved the crowd to shout, “Cut it out!”
ACRA Director Sean Busking presented Dick Radzis of Ace Rent A Car with the President’s Award.
Dan Ewald of Mayfair Rent-A-Car received ACRA’s Member of the Year Award. Ewald was instrumental in helping defeat the Southern Wisconsin light rail system fee.
Sharon Faulkner, a Dollar/Thrifty licensee in Albany, NY and longtime ACRA/ACTIF board member, received the Russell Bruno Award for outstanding service to the car industry.
In an emotional tribute to a car rental pioneer, Jim Tennant of the Tennant Group presented a lifetime achievement award to Jane Mudgett in honor of her father, Fred Mudgett.
Show Floor Highlights
On the show floor, attendees networked with industry peers and interacted with the products and services of more than 40 exhibiting vendors, including the hot Harleys and siren red Lamborghini at the EagleRider and Advantage booth.
Attendees were also treated to a wine tasting and a martini bar while being serenaded by flamenco-inspired guitar music.