For a photo gallery of the 2012 Car Rental Show, click here.
With more than 100 international attendees and some 700 attendees in total, the 2012 Car Rental Show (CRS) convened this week in Las Vegas.
“Our increased attendance and our expanded program, as well as overflowing seminar rooms and an enlarged expo hall are testaments to the renewed vigor and attention focused on the auto rental industry right now,” said Chris Brown, executive editor of Auto Rental News, the show’s sponsor (for his blog about the show click here). “CRS has solidified its place as the only global event dedicated entirely to the auto rental industry.”
Presented in conjunction with the American Car Rental Association (ACRA), CRS kicked off with a Sunday night cocktail reception and segued into four Monday morning pre-conference seminars. After two full days of programming, the show officially closed Wednesday morning with a newly added seminar.
In a first for the Car Rental Show, now in its 17th year, the speaker schedule kicked off with a special address from Congressman Sam Graves of Missouri. Graves addressed the audience on the road to the passage of the historic Graves Amendment that ended vicarious liability for rental and leasing companies.
In addition, Graves, who is chair of the House of Representative’s Small Business Committee, presented the need for tax certainty, an end to regulatory activism and the need for energy independence through development of domestic fuel supplies. “We are an energy rich nation that acts like an energy poor nation,” Graves said.
Graves also outlined a bill, HR 2469, he has co-authored that would eradicate car rental excise taxes on a federal level. “The sad thing with that type of tax is all it does is hurt consumers,” he said. HR 2469 is backed by ACRA as well.
In a dual keynote address, Mark Frissora, chairman and CEO of The Hertz Corp., and Gary Rappeport, CEO of Donlen Corp., explained the convergence of auto rental and leasing and how technology is poised to bring about new transportation solutions. “Customers are smarter than they have ever been,” Frissora said.
Frissora said the industry has weathered the economic storm with higher levels of customer satisfaction, stronger balance sheets and financing structures and is benefitting from the restructuring of the auto manufacturers.
He also showed studies stating that world travel will double by 2020 and that rental car revenue as a percentage of U.S. gross domestic product is growing. He said that growth in local markets is being driven by people who rent cars when they would have flown, while the migration trend back into cities presents opportunities for new mobility options such as car sharing.
Rappeport, whose company is a major commercial fleet lessor and was purchased by Hertz last year, outlined the potential synergies between car rental and commercial fleet management. Donlen and Hertz are piloting a new leasing concept in which corporate clients can lease a used rental vehicle from Hertz’s inventory. The companies are leveraging Donlen’s telematics technology with Hertz connect2go, its corporate pool management program.[PAGEBREAK]
In the remarketing arena, Donlen’s off-lease vehicles can leverage Hertz’s dealer direct and retail-facing Rent2Buy channels, providing a better return to the lease customer.
In the Tuesday morning general session, Geoff Freeman, COO of the U.S. Travel Association, explained the transformation of the travel industry from the recession to the present.
Freeman said in the throes of the recessio
n that travel was looked at “as the Rodney Dangerfield of industries” while business travel — especially to Las Vegas — was portrayed in a negative light. However, through the lobbying efforts of the USTA and through the Travel and Promotion Act, which is the first-ever nationwide travel promotion program, the government and general public are recognizing travel’s $1.8 trillion contribution to the economy each year.
Nonetheless, “We’ve learned that when we act in a silo fashion, we don’t get the respect we deserve,” Freeman said. He said that car rental companies, with branches in all congressional districts and employing millions of people, have powerful voices in government that have yet to be fully heard.
Bob Barton, president and COO of Franchise Services of North America as well as president of ACRA, delivered the closing keynote address. Barton highlighted the potentially damaging rate wars in Florida, as well as the new ways that technology is undermining profits because of a lack of a no-show policy. (See our magazine page for his most recent guest editorial on this topic.)
“If you can clearly articulate your policies and procedures you won’t have a problem with no shows,” Barton said.
Outlining the historic changes in communication and marketing in the past seven years, Barton challenged car rental companies to take advantage of new communication methods such as QR codes, social media and text marketing. “The car rental world is changing faster than you’ve ever expected,” he said.
During the ACRA session, the ACRA legal and legislative panel discussed car rental-focused legislative activity such as efforts in Arizona and Maryland that would require the renter’s insurance to pay first in any third-party liability claims, as the majority of states now require.
In Florida, ACRA has also been tracking bills that would update the process for rental companies to report vehicles as stolen, as well as legislation to reform the state’s personal injury protection (PIP) laws to address fraudulent claims.
Also discussed was the recoupment of vehicle licensing fees in New York as well as the continued effort to eradicate discriminatory excise taxes through federal legislation, HR 2469. Barton and executive director of ACRA, Sharon Faulkner, urged the audience to participate in the efforts through their local legislators. “Never think you are too small to make a difference,” Faulkner said.
On the recognition front, Sharon Faulkner, executive director of ACRA, presented Gil Cygler of Allcar Rent-a-Car with the 2012 Russell Bruno Award for outstanding service to the car rental industry.
Finally, Brown announced that the 2013 Car Rental Show will take place on April 15-16 at a new hotel in Las Vegas, The Rio.