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Report: Are Rental Car Customers Deficient with New Cars?

By Jacob Brown | January 19, 2012
It dawns on you when you work at a rental car agency that some customers aren’t nearly as sharp as you hope they’d be. When you have customers coming back to the office five minutes before closing up shop for the day for a guided tour of opening a gas cap, it makes you question just how safe the future of humanity really is. But that was the landscape two years ago when choices on the lot included Dodge Calibers and Chevrolet Cobalts. Now rental car agencies are throwing tiny Fiat 500s, Toyota Prius hybrids, and all-electric cars like the Nissan Leaf into the mix. Outlined in a new travel blog piece from the Seattle Times is a portrait of consumers getting into rentals with no idea what they’re doing. “Nothing.” That’s all one woman describes as she attempted to start up her Toyota Prius rental. That picture will likely become even murkier as new technologies are integrated into rental vehicles. “Let’s face it, it doesn’t even have to be an electric car, or a specialty unit, for customers to be confused,” says Sharon Faulkner, the executive director of the American Car Rental Association. She says it like there’s a problem with the customers themselves. And to a very small degree, she’s right. Customers often need a sense of familiarity with their cars, especially when they may only be in a rental for a matter of a day or two. It’s why the current Chevrolet Impala continues to be utterly antiquated in the consumer market but thrives as a rental. It’s easy to use, comfortable, durable, cheap to repair, and while customers oftentimes hate it (speaking from personal experience from my college years), it’ll get them where they want to go without having to read through the owner’s manual. Of the worrisome tone displayed by vehicle renters in the Times piece, much of it can be quelled by having a good rental service agent. When explaining the ins and outs of a vehicle, the service agent should be sitting in the car with a renter to explain the car’s unique features. Push-button starters, hidden gas caps, four-wheel drive, and other options should be part of the tour. If a rental car agent hasn’t thoroughly taught the driver how to operate the vehicle in the time he or she has at the office, the rental car agent hasn’t done his or her job. Source: Seattle Times
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2 comments
Jacob Brown
Jacob Brown

Did the service agent walk you through the car when you had it?

Craig
Craig

I got into a new Taurus SEL in Montreal last summer and I couldn't figure out how to start it. I pushed the starter button a couple times and nothing happened, so then I held the button in and nothing happened. After I couple more tries, I stuck my foot on the brake and pushed the button and it started.

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