Car rentals tend to be one of the more routine parts of business travel: You book your standard mid-sized sedan and don’t really think about it — it’s just transportation. But rental companies have been expanding their fleets in recent years with more luxurious, powerful and sporty models so that road warriors can put a bit of excitement and comfort into their driving experience and feel a little extra oomph when they step on the gas pedal.
And when you’re trying to close a deal with an undecided client, it can’t hurt your image when you pick him or her up for lunch with a set of fancy wheels.
Typical of this trend is National Car Rental’s Premier Selection, now entering its third year. Renters who walk into the National lots at 25 major U.S. airport locations will see a clearly designated area where the Premier Selection vehicles are kept, and they can easily upgrade to one no matter what type of car they’ve reserved.
This year, National is rolling out an expanded range of Audi and BMW vehicles in its Premier Selection fleet, and is also adding the outdoorsy 2016 Toyota Land Cruiser.
The special fleet started out with posh rides like Cadillac Escalades, Lincoln Navigators and Lexus IS250s and has been branching out from there. In 2014, one newcomer to the Premier Selection fleet was the Kia K900 sedan, a full-size, rear-drive luxury vehicle loaded with all the extras. (Note: Not all vehicle types may be available at all locations.)
Another newcomer to the fleet about a year ago is the high-performance, all-wheel-drive version of Maserati’s Ghibli S Q4. It’s equipped with a twin-turbo V6 Ferrari engine that cranks out more than 400 horsepower, and an eight-speed automatic transmission. It also has a leather interior, heated front seats with eight-way power adjustments, dual zone climate control and other luxury amenities.
Who knows? You might like one of these hot cars so much that you end up buying one.
A study commissioned by Enterprise Holdings, National’s parent company, found that renters at National’s airport locations were 45 percent more likely to buy a new car within six months of their rental than the average U.S. consumer — and of those who did so, more than three-fourths bought a vehicle different from the type they already owned. The finding “strongly indicates that many car rental customers are using their rentals to experience new makes and models,” a spokesman said.
National created its Premier Selection program with input from a few hundred of its most loyal Emerald Club members. Customers who see something they like in the Premier Selection area can easily upgrade without going to the rental counter.
Would you upgrade your next car rental to Premier Selection? Why or why not? Please leave your comments below.
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