TORONTO - Hertz Corp. is making a $50 million investment to equip about 50,000 of its rental cars worldwide with new satellite navigation systems within a year.
The systems, trade-named 'NeverLost,' are being produced in a joint venture with Magellan Corp., makers of global positioning systems, and others in the emerging navigation-systems market.
NeverLost is expected to be deployed in Hertz's Canadian fleet by mid-December. The company displayed the system as part of the sixth World Congress on Intelligent Transport Systems last month here.
Hertz has tried NeverLost on about 20,000 vehicles in its U.S. fleet. David Logan, the rental company's director of strategic-management information-systems global planning, said the U.S. success of NeverLost has given Hertz and parent Ford Motor Co. important feedback on the way drivers use navigation systems.
'They loved it. It just took so much of the hassle out, not having to look for or unfold a paper map in the dark or in an unfamiliar place,' Logan said.
Graham Weedon, marketing manager for Hertz's joint-venture partner, Navigation Solutions of Plano, Texas, said the system makes a lasting impact on drivers.
'What you have is fiercely loyal repeat customers,' Weedon said. 'They ask for it every time they rent a car after their first experience with it.'
NeverLost lets a driver punch a single button to get an instant map display showing where his vehicle is on the road. Further refinements allow the driver to gain increasing map detail on a flat-panel screen about the size of a credit card.
The screen also can display icons showing which way a driver should turn to reach a set destination, and the system provides voice prompts in English, Dutch, French, German, Italian, Japanese or Spanish.
Using a database supplied by Navigation Technologies Corp., the system includes a mixture of general and highly detailed metropolitan area information for the 48 contiguous states, plus street-level information for Toronto and Vancouver and the major road systems of Canada.
The system costs users an additional $9 a day to rent and is installed in Ford Taurus, Contour and Crown Victoria models and Lincoln Continentals, as well as in Ford and Lincoln sport-utilities.