20 Jul, 2016

Rentals and Terrorist Activity: Time to Hone the Plan

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Terrorist activity is frequently tied to a rental vehicle. In today’s heightened risk environment and the potential for terrorism from within, local operators need to hone an action plan.

Two weeks after 9/11, Gil Cygler recounts getting a call that one of his rental trucks was abandoned and had caught on fire on a bridge leading into Manhattan. “We didn’t know if the fire was caused to destroy evidence or if (the truck) was involved in a possible terrorist attack,” says Cygler, a Dollar franchisee at the time. He got a hold of the FBI, who seemed to dismiss the event since the truck’s owner had been identified. Luckily, the fire turned out to have been caused by an engine malfunction.

Times have changed — even more dramatically within the past year — as the threat of terrorism and the actual commission of terrorist acts have reached an unprecedented level of urgency in this country and around the world. Historically, rental vehicles have played roles in high-profile terrorist attacks, specifically the trucks used to deliver bombs that detonated in the World Trade Center in 1993 and in the federal building in Oklahoma City in 1995. They are used with regularity in terrorist attacks today.

“We have recognized that terrorist activity is very frequently tied to someone renting a vehicle,” says Bob Kolasky from the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), “either using the rental vehicle while committing the act of violence or in pre-attack plotting.”

More recently, we saw the photos of the bullet-riddled rented Ford Expeditionthat the San Bernardino terrorists died in, the one they used to haul assault rifles, guns, and 1,400 rounds of ammunition. Omar Mateen, the Orlando nightclub mass murderer, rented a vehicle and drove it to Orlando to carry out that attack. A Belgian rental car was used in the attack on the Bataclan Concert Hall in Paris last year that killed 89 people. And last week in Nice, a rented truck was used as a weapon itself to murder 84 people.

Since Cygler’s post-9/11 incident, there has been an evolution regarding the interaction between businesses, the general public, and law enforcement when it comes to understanding potential terrorist activity and reporting it. Indeed, attendees of this year’s International Car Rental Show will remember Kolasky’s address on this subject in conjunction with the DHS’s “If You See Something, Say Something” campaign to raise public awareness of suspicious activities that may suggest acts of terrorism.

The DHS has an action plan for car rental operators and businesses of all types, centered on “Connect, Plan, Train, and Report.”

In terms of promoting awareness of suspicious activity, the DHS does have resources for understanding the signs of bomb-making materials and behavioral indicators of a path to radicalization. However, the goal is not to tell car rental companies how to specifically identify suspicious behavior over the car rental counter, but rather give businesses and individuals the resources to connect, and allow them to be comfortable doing so.

“We’re constantly working on public-private partnerships on the security director level to talk through what we’re seeing overall,” says Kolasky, “and then let them (different businesses types) apply that to their own operational settings and their own levels of security.”

The best connections for car rental operators are on a local level. The primary contact is local law enforcement. Make them aware of your business, if you haven’t already. You don’t need the DHS to do that.

Another resource is the FBI’s “InfraGard” program, in which special agents in field offices work with local businesses to proactively share information. The program is organized by chapters and local points of contact.

A third is the DHS’s Protective Security Advisors program. With about 100 in the country and one in every state, this group of government liaisons will work with businesses to provide free security consulting and help implement and strengthen facility-level security programs. Once those relationships are established, those advisors are also conduits to report suspicious activity, Kolasky says.

In contrast to Cygler’s experience, Kolasky says the DHS has implemented a feedback mechanism so that reporters of suspicious activity know their information was received and evaluated, even if the incident is ultimately cleared from suspicion. “Nothing discourages people more than reporting things into a black hole,” Kolasky says.

Regarding how to look for suspicious activity, signs of nervousness or a cash rental without a reservation can raise the red flags. Cygler, who subsequently created his own car rental brand (AllCar, which sold to Enterprise in 2015), says that asking a few extra questions is effective in identifying suspicious activity, especially regarding truck rentals.

“Ask them what they’re carrying or using the truck for,” he says, adding that a renter that doesn’t ask questions might also raise suspicion. “If the guy could care less about how the truck operates — if there is a lift gate or a ramp, or if the truck is at loading dock height — that could tell you something is off.”

As terror attacks seem to occur weekly, it’s easy to allow ourselves to become numb to more bad news. “It is disconcerting that you even have to start thinking about these things,” Cygler says. “You’re always on the lookout for credit card fraud and identity theft, and this (potential terrorist activity) just adds another layer.”

Unlike 9/11, a new trend is attacks generated from perpetrators already on U.S. soil. Instead of dulling our resolve, this fact alone shows the importance for increased vigilance.

“The way we stop terrorism is to increase the likelihood that (the potential terrorist) will get caught in one of the many steps along the way,” Kolasky says. “The moment of renting a car is often one of those steps. We want to increase the likelihood that someone will report on suspicious activity and cause us to take a second look.”

20 Jul, 2016

Which Car Rental Websites Rank the Fastest for Booking Reservations?

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The rental car companies (Alamo Rent A Car, Avis Rent A Car, Hertz, and Enterprise Rent-A-Car) were rated by home page load, search response time, time on task, and task completion.

All tests were completed from Qentelli’s cloud platform stated on Amazon AWS cloud, according to the company.

According to Qentelli’s 2016 Summer Travel Report, Enterprise took the top spot for home page load, Alamo and Avis tied for the best search response time, Alamo was rated first for time on task, and Hertz and Enterprise tied for the best task completion rate.

Here are the rankings for the four categories, according to the report:

Home Page Load Time:

– Enterprise: 2.02 seconds
– Alamo: 2.18 seconds
– Avis: 2.94 seconds
– Hertz: 3.81 seconds

Search Response Time (Time on Search Page; Results Load Time):

– Alamo: 19 seconds; 8.5 seconds
– Avis: 19 seconds; 10.5 seconds
– Enterprise: 21 seconds; 10 seconds
– Hertz: 31 seconds; 10 seconds

Time on Task:

– Alamo: 40 seconds
– Enterprise: 42.5 seconds
– Avis: 46 seconds
– Hertz: 53.5 seconds

Task Completion Rate:

– Hertz: 100%
– Enterprise 100%
– Avis: 99.17%
– Alamo: 98.5%

Qentelli provides these suggestions to help car rental companies offer a quality experience with continuous delivery through their websites:

– Reduce the amount of requests sent with fewer components in the homepage, such as java scripts and compressed images, to make your pages faster.
– Decrease the number of images on search pages. Alamo had only 13 images compared to 25 or more on the other car rental websites.
– Bigger can be better. Hertz’s comprehensive booking page gives customers a better user experience even if it takes longer to load.
– Minimize HTML and JS requests and compress images to increase a website’s speed.

20 Jul, 2016

Enterprise Opens First Location in New Zealand

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Enterprise Rent-A-Car has entered the New Zealand market with its first location at the Queenstown Airport.

Franchisee Redspot Car Rentals will operate the office as part of the Enterprise Holdings global network, which includes the Enterprise brand as well as National Car Rental and Alamo Rent A Car. As a result, the new Enterprise airport location also will be able to serve Redspot, National, and Alamo customers.

Redspot Car Rentals, a family-owned car rental business, has served the Australian car rental market for more than 20 years.

“We look forward to providing New Zealand’s leisure and corporate customers with the highest level of service,” said Dan Mekler, Redspot’s managing director. “Opening our Queenstown Enterprise Rent-A-Car location is an exciting milestone, but it’s just the beginning of our planned growth in New Zealand.”

Customers can choose from small to large sedans, SUVs, and 4WDs, according to Enterprise.

“Our growth in Asia Pacific is a reflection of the global reputation and strength of our brands,” said Peter A. Smith, vice president of global franchising at Enterprise Holdings.

Since Enterprise Rent-A-Car entered Australia in February, the brand now serves customers in 18 Australia locations. In addition, Enterprise will expand to additional airport locations in North and South New Zealand in the next year, according to the company.

20 Jul, 2016

Avis Budget Adds Digital Payment Option with MasterPass

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Avis Budget Group has announced that MasterPass by MasterCard is now a payment option for customers.

Travelers can now pay for rentals in advance with a new digital payment option when they make reservations on Avis.com or Budget.com. Avis Car Rental and Budget Car Rental are the first car rental providers participating in the digital payment service, according to Avis Budget Group.

Avis and Budget customers who select the Pay Now option can get the lowest rates available online by paying in advance. These customers can also enjoy the convenience of using MasterPass by clicking the “Buy with MasterPass” button, signing into their MasterPass account, and paying for their car rental reservation with their stored method of payment.

“MasterCard processes billions of transactions each year, so we’re thrilled to team up to offer MasterPass users a convenient way to prepay their Avis or Budget rental,” said Scott Deaver, executive vice president and chief marketing officer, Avis Budget Group. “This initiative will enhance the customer experience we offer and should also help improve our reservation conversion rates as we look to continue to accelerate growth.”

U.S. consumers can sign up for a MasterPass account by visiting the MasterPass website or through a participating bank. Launched in 2013, MasterPass by MasterCard is free and accepted anywhere you see the “Buy with MasterPass” button. It is currently available in 32 countries and is accepted at 270,000 merchants globally.

“The digitization of commerce and the increased connectivity of consumers are driving digital transformation around the world,” said Linda Kirkpatrick, executive vice president, MasterCard. “We are delighted to partner with Avis Budget Group on innovations like MasterPass, which supports Avis’ focus on customer service excellence, by delivering a safe, seamless, and simple payment experience for consumers.”

20 Jul, 2016

Enterprise Donates Stroller after Customer Recognizes Agent on Facebook

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Coty Vincent visited an Enterprise Rent-A-Car location in Tulsa, Okla., after being the victim of a hit-and-run collision, according to a report by Tulsa World.

As she approached the rental counter, she had to hold one of her baby twins since she didn’t have a double stroller. The rental agent John held one of her babies so she could fill out paperwork.

Vincent took a photo of the moment and posted it on her Facebook page, according to the report. Vincent shared the photo to a Facebook page calledLove What Matters.

The post caught the attention of Enterprise’s social media team, says the report. Enterprise announced that it would purchase a double stroller for Vincent and reward John for his customer service.

“We were so moved by Coty’s Facebook post that we wanted to return the favor and do something special for her,” Lee Broughton, vice president of Enterprise North American Brand Marketing, told Tulsa World. “Of course, we are also recognizing John for going the extra mile.”

Click here for the full Tulsa World report.

20 Jul, 2016

Best Way Auto & Truck Rentals Acquires Rent Max Miami

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On July 1, Best Way assumed operation of rental locations in Orlando and Tampa as part of an agreement with Rent Max Miami Inc. Under the agreement, the locations will operate as Best Way/Rent Max during the transition period.

“The timing of the acquisition and commencement of operation in these two high volume markets allowed us to take advantage of the holiday weekend and maximize revenue,” said John D. Keena, president of Best Way Auto & Truck Rental. “Entering into this relationship with Rent Max has been smooth and holds promise for additional opportunity in the future.”

In addition to the new Florida locations, Best Way has also opened a new location in Cincinnati this week.

“Best Way continues to outperform expectations. John and his team have had tremendous success in site selection, efficient training, and cost-effective opening of new locations,” said Daniel L. Hefner, president and CEO of American Commerce Solutions, Inc., a subsidiary of Best Way Auto and Truck Rental.

20 Jul, 2016

Easy Rent Pro Launches Knowledge Base

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In the knowledge base, users will get step-by-step instructions with screen prints on how to use the software, according to the company. The knowledge base is a guide for Easy Rent Pro Standard, Easy Rent Pro Cloud, and Easy Reservations Online.

Easy Rent Pro’s family of car rental software is used in 70 countries worldwide, according to the company.

For more information, visit http://easyrentpro.com/knowledgebase/.

19 Jul, 2016

‘Automated ridesharing solutions’ are coming as well 2021.

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‘Automated ridesharing solutions’ are coming as well

2021. That’s the year that  fully autonomous cars will take to the streets, sporting the blue and white roundel. To bring about this utopian future, BMW has partnered up with Intel and the autonomous hardware and software specialist Mobileye.

The three aim to develop systems that will permit highly and fully automated driving in highway as well as urban environments, coupled with “automated ridesharing solutions.” The latter phrase refers to plans by BMW and several other automakers to (pardon this next word) disrupt the concept of car ownership by making it possible to summon a car via a mobile device, use it for a bit at what hopefully won’t be minibar prices, and then let it go about its business. Autonomous driving tech will be crucial to this vision of the future, as it will allow fleets of autonomous vehicles to serve users in urban and rural areas alike, without burdening them with much of what is included in car ownership.

BMW is aiming for Level 3 and Level 4 autonomy: Level 3 will allow drivers to take their eyes off the road, while Level 4 will allow drivers to catch up on sleep or work. Further on down the line BMW wants to achieve Level 5 autonomy; vehicles without a driver inside, letting the machines take over.

Along with Intel and Mobileye, BMW plans to create a common platform for Level 3 to Level 5 autonomy, one that it car share (license) to other automakers.

“Highly autonomous cars and everything they connect to will require powerful and reliable electronic brains to make them smart enough to navigate traffic and avoid accidents,” said Intel CEO Brian Krzanich. “This partnership between BMW Group, Intel and Mobileye will help us to quickly deliver on our vision to reinvent the driving experience. We bring a broad set of in-vehicle and cloud computing, connectivity, safety and security, and machine-learning assets to this collaboration enabling a truly end-to-end solution.”

In what futuristic vehicle might we see this autonomous technology? The production version of the BMW iNEXT concept, which previews an electric 7-Series analog, will form the backbone of BMW’s autonomous car efforts, as will the rest of the i Division given time.

Read more: Auto Week

19 Jul, 2016

Americans have spoken: Now 54.5 mpg CAFE target is off the table

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Pickup truck and SUV sales force MPG reassessment in light of consumer demand

Automakers have all the tools at their disposal to meet the 54.5 mpg corporate average fuel economy targets for the 2025 model year, but buyer preferences for SUVs and trucks make it likely that the industry will fall short of that number, U.S. regulators said in a report Monday.

The EPA, National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and California Air Resources Board released their draft Technical Assessment Report analyzing costs, technology and other issues involved in the industry’s drive toward lowering greenhouse gas emissions. The assessment was scheduled as part of the 2011 agreement to lower emissions in cars and improve fuel economy by the 2025 model year.

The auto industry is “adopting fuel economy technologies at unprecedented rates,” the government agencies said in a statement Monday. “Car makers and suppliers have developed far more innovative technologies to improve fuel economy and reduce GHG emissions than anticipated just a few years ago.”

The report also says that automakers have been able to meet the current regulations for about the same cost or even less than the government projected in 2012. And the report says automakers will be able to meet standards with improvements in standard gasoline engines, and won’t need to rely heavily on sales of hybrids or electric cars.

Even with all those positives, government officials said, the 54.5 mpg goal is off the table. Lower gasoline prices have kept demand for SUVs, crossovers and other light trucks higher than originally anticipated, meaning the advances in fuel economy technology won’t be reflected fully in the fleet averages, which are sales-weighted.

 Senior administration officials told reporters on a conference call Monday that the 54.5 mpg goal was never a mandate but more of an estimate of where the industry could be by the 2025 model year. That estimate was based on an assumption that 67 percent of the market would be cars and 33 percent would be SUVs, crossovers, pickups and other light trucks.

But customers haven’t moved from their desire to buy SUVs, crossovers and trucks. Now the government estimates the overall fleet average fuel economy will hit between 50 mpg and 52.6 mpg by the 2025 model year. The new estimates assume a more even split between cars and trucks in the marketplace.

The Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers, a trade group for 12 carmakers and the Detroit 3, said in a statement that “excessive regulatory costs could impact both consumers and the employees who produce these vehicles.”

Changing the target fuel economy figure reflects consumer demand, the alliance said. “The government is acknowledging the effect of factors like low gas prices on consumer sales, and the impact of consumer sales on those targets,” it said.

Dan Becker, director of the Safe Climate Campaign, said the auto industry has the power to shape consumer preferences through its advertising campaigns and could easily meet the 54.5 mpg target if it stopped aggressively marketing SUVs and trucks.

“There is no excuse not to improve efficiency and strengthen the standards,” Becker said. “We can’t accept backsliding or loopholes that undermine their success just to put more gas-guzzlers on the road.”

The report is open to public comment for 60 days. The EPA will make a final determination on the 2022 to 2025 model year regulations by April 1, 2018.

 Read more: Auto Week
19 Jul, 2016

Jeep is the engine that drives Fiat Chrysler Automobiles

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Jeep sales are up 17 percent in the United States over 2015 record sales

In its 75-year history, Jeep never has been in better shape than it is right now.

The reason? Current owner Fiat Chrysler Automobiles has accomplished what a succession of previous owners only dreamed of: truly globalizing one of the world’s most storied automotive brands.

Worldwide, Jeep’s deliveries in 2015 topped 1.2 million vehicles, its fourth consecutive record year for global production and sales.

Jeep Renegades are now built in Europe (Italy), South America (Brazil) and Asia (China) for sale in those regional markets. By the end of the year, production of the replacement for the Jeep Compass will begin in Brazil and China, as well as Mexico. Jeep-branded vehicles also will soon begin rolling into India, with local production slated to begin in 2017.

Meanwhile, sales in Jeep’s largest and most profitable market, the United States, are up 17 percent through June over record 2015 sales.

Jeep’s lineup also is expanding. Brand head Mike Manley said last month that luxury full-size SUVs under the storied Wagoneer and Grand Wagoneer names will return with the development of a redesigned Jeep Grand Cherokee in 2019. On the other end of the size spectrum, a micro-segment Jeep, smaller than the Renegade, is under strong consideration, primarily for markets outside North America.

Photo: 2017 Jeep Grand Cherokee Trailhawk

2017 Jeep Grand Cherokee TrailhawkPHOTO BY JEEP

Meanwhile, FCA is expanding production capacity of its profit-rich Wrangler by at least 50 percent, allowing the brand to fulfill what it sees as unmet domestic and international demand. The added capacity also will allow for the return of a pickup to the Jeep lineup for the first time since 1996.

CEO Sergio Marchionne says Jeep is the engine that keeps his company going, no matter how tough the economic circumstances become.

“One of the things that we’ve always faced in the United States in the production of Jeeps is to make this unfortunate Sophie’s Choice about whether we sell in the U.S. or whether we sell overseas,” Marchionne explained this year. “In the last probably three or four years especially, we’ve been forced to make choices about which markets get allocated product.

“Even if there were to be a contraction of the U.S. market, there is unexplored potential in terms of outside U.S. markets, especially where we have not established local production,” he said.

“Anything which relates to either a Cherokee or a Grand Cherokee and eventually a Wagoneer or Wrangler will have additional means of expression in international markets.”

The article “Jeep is the engine that drives Fiat Chrysler globally” first appeared on Automotive News.

Read more: http://autoweek.com/article/car-news/jeep-engine-drives-fca#ixzz4Et8HpXtX