At this week’s Plug-In Electric Vehicle Infrastructure Conference I had a wonderful conversation with a senior player at Enterprise Holdings, the parent company of Enterprise Rent-A-Car. I began by validating him for coming to a show like this; to me it shows, at a minimum, a kind of progressive, forward-thinking approach to the business.
When I asked him about the pros and cons of adding electric vehicles to the line-up, I got some very interesting and thought-provoking answers that I thought I’d share:
• They have 1.2 million cars, and they feel that adding a few thousand electrics is really the least they can do.
• Offering customers an EV experience will drive the EV adoption curve, as car rental is the way many customers are first exposed to a new car.
• Enterprise does everything in its power to ensure that every customer experience is a positive one, and they feel that, with proper dialog in the sales process (“Where will you be taking this?” and, if necessary, “Where can you charge?”), the experience will be almost uniformly good.
The business model for rental car companies is: a) You buy the car at a considerable discount, since you buy thousands at a time, and you’ll take the hot pink or mustard yellow ones that no one wants, b) You rent it for 18 months or so, getting as much for it as you can, and then c) You sell it at a good price. EVs throw a monkey wrench into the works, as no one knows the residual value of the car, and worse, it’s even harder to predict the residual value of the battery. Right now, batteries are half the value of the car. That’s a pretty big item about which to be guessing.
I walked away extremely impressed. This guy’s sharp as a tack, and he’s working for a company that really wants to do the right thing. I sure wish I could say that more often.