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SYS-CON MEDIA Authors: Ian Goldsmith, Ed Featherston, Elizabeth White, Pat Romanski, Liz McMillan

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Car Rental Business Adapting to Innovative Technologies, Changing Consumer Preferences

Enterprise Holdings CMO Pat Farrell: "We're not just renting cars … we are providing mobility, and mobility keeps the world moving."

LAS VEGAS, April 7, 2014 /PRNewswire/ -- At this year's Car Rental Show, keynote speaker Pat Farrell, Chief Marketing & Communications Officer for Enterprise Holdings, kicked off the annual conference today 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.

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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."

Enterprise Holdings is the largest car rental service provider in the world measured by revenue, employees and fleet and the owner and operator of the Enterprise Rent-A-Car, National Car Rental and Alamo Rent A Car brands. "Everything we do is underpinned by consumer research," Farrell said, "but the most effective form of research still comes down to one simple thing: listening to consumers."

"Consumers today have access to more information whenever and wherever they need it; they have a more urban lifestyle and have new attitudes and preferences about accessing automobiles and mobility in general," he observed. "But there is a solid consensus that cars provide an unmatched level of convenience and freedom, allowing people to be in total control of the time, destination and environment – and that is where opportunity exists. We're not just renting cars … we are providing mobility, and mobility keeps the world moving."

He 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."

Discriminatory Taxes
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.

"Like all good citizens – individual or corporate – we are more than willing to pay our fair share," he stated. "We also understand the need for special tax levies that are fairly applied to build or improve things like transportation infrastructure. These are perfectly legitimate." But he contrasted these legitimate taxes with a new rental car tax (often mistakenly referred to as a "user fee") enacted by the town of Canton, Georgia, which has no clear purpose for the funds except to "encourage economic development." 

"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. "We must be our customers' advocates," he said.

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."

About Enterprise Holdings
Enterprise Holdings and its affiliate Enterprise Fleet Management together offer a total transportation solution. Combined, these businesses – which include extensive car rental and car-sharing services, commercial truck rental, corporate fleet management and retail car sales – accounted for $16.4 billion in revenue, employed 78,000 and operated 1.4 million vehicles throughout the world in fiscal year 2013. Enterprise Holdings, through its regional subsidiaries, operates the largest fleet of vehicles in the world through a global network of neighborhood and airport locations under the Enterprise Rent-A-Car, National Car Rental and Alamo Rent A Car brands. Enterprise Fleet Management provides full-service fleet management to companies and organizations with medium-sized fleets. Other transportation services marketed under the Enterprise brand name include Enterprise CarShare, Enterprise Rideshare, Enterprise Car Sales and Enterprise Commercial Trucks. Operating through its regional subsidiaries, Enterprise Holdings is the largest car rental company in the world as measured by revenue, fleet and employees.

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