Survey: Auto Dealers Well Equipped to Compete in Car Rental Market

The survey showed that dealers have competitive advantages in customer service, fleet management, facilities, and proximity to local rental customers.

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Commissioned by connected car platform Dealerware, a survey of U.S. car owners found that auto dealerships have an opportunity to win a share of the $25 billion U.S. car rental market that is primarily served by national car rental chains.

The survey, completed by J.D. Power, showed that dealers have competitive advantages in customer service, fleet management, facilities, and proximity to local rental customers. 

“Daily, weekly, and monthly access to vehicles on demand is becoming a real market need for consumers rethinking their personal mobility needs,” said Matt Carpenter, CEO of Dealerware. “Auto retailers and manufacturers are well equipped to win this market together by scaling connected fleets and delivering elevated customer experiences.” 

From the survey, a key takeaway is fleet experience helps dealers win customers. Over the last several years, dealerships have adopted mobile contracting and digital fleet management tools that make it convenient for customers to use dealership-courtesy fleet vehicles. In turn, these investments have increased customer satisfaction with dealership experiences.  

A great customer service experience was the most common factor in a customer’s decision to return to a dealership, cited by 71% of survey respondents. 

The survey showed that providing alternate mobility options (in the form of courtesy, rental, or shuttle vehicles) was part of a great customer experience. In fact, 96% of customers (who received a courtesy vehicle during a service visit) said they would return to that dealership for their next vehicle purchase.

Additionally, customers who received a courtesy vehicle (at their last service visit) were twice as likely to rent a vehicle from dealer inventory.

Dealership mobility programs will also aid the rollout of new offerings, including on-demand access to electric vehicles. More than half of consumers surveyed said they would choose an EV over an internal combustion vehicle as a courtesy vehicle – if given the choice. 

Survey results showed demand among car owners for flexible access to other vehicles. More than half of respondents said they were likely to seek a rental vehicle from a dealership. The factors influencing a consumer’s choice for a rental provider are competitive pricing, easy access to the location, simple customer service experiences, and quality of vehicles.

Dealerships that already offer rentals might be more likely to see repeat business than traditional rental providers. According to the survey, 86% of customers who have rented from dealerships said they would do so again, compared to 50% for those who rented from an off-airport location of a national car rental provider.

“Dealerships have the facilities, vehicles, staff, and customer service experience to win trust and a significant share of this market,” said Carpenter.

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