Car Rental Firms: Less Satisfying

Arguably there were two things at play when it came to the rental car situation in the U.S. in the Age of COVID a couple years back.

On the one hand, people weren’t traveling, so the rental fleets figured that it would be OK to offload some of those cars that were just sitting there in parking lots around airports.

On the other hand, car manufacturers figured that they could make more money selling the limited number of vehicles they could build (because of supply chain issues overall and chip shortages in particular) to individual consumers than to rental fleets. (Let’s face it: rental car companies aren’t going to buy a whole bunch of loaded SUVs or pickups.)

When travel came back with an amazing zeal (forget those Zoom calls; beaches beckoned; it is nice to see far-flung family again. . .) plenty of those travelers discovered that the rental car companies seemed ill-prepared to accommodate them.

The cars that weren’t there in the lots. The cars that were there and seemed rather, well, tired. Unhappiness abounded.

According to the J.D. Power 2022 North American Rental Car Satisfaction Study, satisfaction among renters was not good in 2021 and it hasn’t gotten any better this year.

One of the factors contributing to this is that prices are up 14%.

“When it comes to rental cars,” says Michael Taylor, managing director of travel, hospitality and retail at J.D. Power, “price is the biggest factor affecting satisfaction, and the combined effects of inflation and high fuel prices are really pushing customers to their limits—and could affect brand image.”

On a 1,000-point scale, Enterprise is #1 at 865. Thrifty is in last place, with 780.

The industry average is 829.

(Avis evidently doesn’t try harder any more, as it comes in below industry average at 816.)

Taylor: “If rental car companies want to offset the influence of these cost increases on customer satisfaction and their brand loyalty, they are going to have to work hard to deliver outsized value by ramping up service.”

What are the odds of that happening?

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