After last year's deflated scores, all but one of the five qualifying car rental brands showed improved ratings for BTN's 2023 Car Rental Survey, which gauges the segment's standing with business travel buyers.
National Car Rental retained its top spot, making it undefeated for the eight years BTN has conducted the survey. Its sister brand Enterprise was the only brand with a lower overall score, but it still managed to rank second, the same as it did last year. In a heated race for third place, Avis and Hertz practically tied, and BTN had to extend the results another decimal place to finalize the rankings, with Avis slightly ahead. Avis' sister brand Budget fell to fifth place this year.
The total average score for the five qualifying brands increased to 4.10 from 4.02 last year, and all 12 criteria averaged above 4.0. Last year, five were below that mark. Further, all but one of the 12 criteria showed improvement, with the exception being upgrades and service for VIP travelers.
"No. 1, what you are seeing is a return to normality," Oppenheimer managing director Ian Zaffino said. "The biggest driver… is people traveling again for work; they're interacting more, and there is less complexity [coming from] Covid. Availability of cars is the other piece. It was a nightmare this time last year to get a vehicle."
"2022 was an extremely difficult year," said American Car Rental Association spokesperson Greg Scott. "The car rental industry could not meet demand because of a lack of vehicles. About mid-year in 2022 I started hearing more and more ACRA members say that their demand for vehicles was being met or close to being met by suppliers."
Another concern that remains but has improved is staffing. "Some of that service that may have been more poorly scored last year has improved a little with more bodies helping out at rental locations," said KesselRun VP of program management Krissy Herman.
Still, overall scores are a tad below the pre-pandemic ratings in 2019. And while some categories have improved since then, others have some catch-up to do. That said, nearly 38 percent of respondents said overall car rental customer service has improved in the past 12 months, but close to 52 percent said it stayed the same, with just over 10 percent saying it declined.
"There are still some challenges in the industry, but if [scores] are up from last year, they're trending in the right direction," GoldSpring Consulting partner Neil Hammond said. "Still, we have some way to go to previous service levels. Companies have lost money and went into recovery as well. We know there have been a slew of rate increases and stealth increases that are now filtering through contracts, and that factors into the equation, too."
Copyright 2023 Northstar Travel Media LLC. All rights reserved. From https://www.businesstravelnews.com. By Donna M. Airoldi.