In one sense, the 2015 International Car Rental Show (CRS) was embodied by three young attendees from Russia. In Moscow, they told me, people park where they want, how they want. They said the Moscow city government had recently announced an initiative to allow parking for point-to-point (free-floating) carsharing in the city. The city has little parking planning and only installed parking meters last year.
The Russian car rental market in general is the youngest and possibly the smallest among European countries. This presents a gold rush of opportunity for these Russian representatives, who are preparing to launch a point-to-point carsharing service called BelkaCar. The attendees from BelkaCar came to the show with an idea but no fleet experience — and with the goal of launching a service with more than 100 vehicles. They came to the show for answers.
The BelkaCar story reinforces the point that the newly named International Car Rental Show is the only event in the world for car rental companies of all stripes to learn how to manage and grow their businesses through exhibits, seminars, speakers and interacting with other companies on the same mission.
CRS has always been about established franchisees and independent car rental companies rubbing elbows with the upstart companies and the exhibitors that serve them. It has always been the forum for the American Car Rental Association (ACRA) — more active and vibrant than ever — to build consensus with constituents on legislative issues directly affecting the industry in the U.S. And it will continue to serve those essential needs.
But CRS opens a much bigger umbrella today. Lately, we’ve grown on the success of companies exploiting niche markets such as Jucy Rentals, the purple and green camper van renter from Australia that has expanded into the U.S., Bandago, suppliers of van transportation to touring rock bands, and Silvercar, the app-based renters of silver Audi A4s.
This year, we offered a programming track to automotive dealerships on how to implement or improve their dealer rental programs. We weren’t sure of the outcome, both in attendance or reception of the material. The room was full, and the dealers willingly rolled up their sleeves to wring best practices out of our four seminars. We look forward to growing this auto dealer base moving forward.
While the domestic market continues to form the backbone of CRS, our largest expansion has been with foreign attendees. This is evidenced by the doubling in attendance of our Spanish-language Latin American meeting, the now annual reception of a delegation from China and first-time participants from Nigeria, Romania and Bahrain.
The white space of opportunity being exploited by our Russian attendees is not unique. In Brazil, Movida Rent a Car has grown from a fleet of 2,000 units to 40,000 in two short years. Three years ago, Diego Solorzano launched Carrot, the first carsharing company in Mexico City; it has tripled in size since then.
Yes, the umbrella now includes new(er) business models such as carsharing and peer-to-peer rental companies like Flightcar. Flightcar is expanding peer-to-peer rentals on airports; a Budget licensee is preparing to launch a carsharing operation in Bogota, Colombia, and vendors exhibited systems at CRS for the “self-service” rental car. They’re joined by a new breed of vendor using telematics, Bluetooth and “connected car” technology to manage fleets.
Car rental companies — or maybe one day we’ll just call them mobility providers — continue to evolve the business model and expand globally. We’re excited to continue offering a four-day forum that has become a crossroads for figuring it all out together.