The data collected from Rate This Ride, which has been used by about 180,000 consumers through the Enterprise and National Car Rental apps, provides automakers with valuable feedback on their models from potential customers, said Kurt Kohler, Enterprise senior vice president of fleet acquisition and remarketing.
“We collaborate with our OEM partners to share insights we think they will find interesting, or data that they have requested,” he said.
Enterprise, the world’s largest rental-car company, buys more fleet vehicles from automakers than any other company. Industrywide U.S. fleet sales rose 4.1 percent in 2016 to 2.6 million units.
In addition to providing automakers with a steady sales outlet, rental-car companies essentially act as providers of extended test drives to drivers who might be in search of a new vehicle, Kohler said.
Automakers “quickly began to recognize the power of the tool and that rental is another channel for a first introduction to a potential customer,” he said.
A Ford spokesman said in an email that the company is working with Enterprise on the “Rate This Ride” program and said Ford “values the product exposure and end-user customer feedback opportunity the program provides.”
In the future, Rate This Ride could be expanded to allow customers to “connect directly to the OEM for more information and offers,” Kohler said. “We believe we are uniquely positioned, as an operator of over 1 million cars in the U.S., to act as the industry barometer for customer taste.”
About 40 percent of respondents said their vehicle rentals “positively changed” their perception of the automaker, data provided by Enterprise showed, while 9 percent said it had a negative impact.
Fifty-two percent of drivers said in the future they would “definitely” or “probably” consider buying or leasing the model they had rented, according to Enterprise.
Customers tend to have generally positive experiences with their rental vehicles. About 45 percent of respondents rated their rental vehicle as “excellent,” while another 30 percent called it “good.” Just 9 percent of customers said their vehicle was “poor” or “very poor.”
Premium vehicles have tended to be more popular than other segments, as 62 percent of renters rated those vehicles as “excellent.” Full-size pickups were second with a 50 percent “excellent” rating, followed by SUVs at 44 percent, reflecting the market’s growing preference for light trucks. Midsize cars had a 24 percent “excellent” rating.