Move to the side of the road Enterprise, Indianapolis-based Ace Rent A Car is the new industry leader in customer satisfaction.
Ace placed first in J.D. Power and Associates’ latest rental car satisfaction study, ending national competitor Enterprise’s seven-year run on top.
The honor is quite an accomplishment for Ace, considering this is the first year the company placed in the survey. It previously lacked the minimum number of customer responses (100) to be included.
“This really caught us by surprise,” said Craig Parmerlee, a co-owner and director of business development. “Frankly, we viewed the J.D. Power survey as something that was done at a level above our scale.”
Indeed, at least 90 percent of the rental car industry is controlled by four companies and their affiliates: Enterprise and Alamo; Budget and Avis; Dollar and Thrifty; and Hertz and Advantage.
Ace has 10 corporate-owned locations throughout the Midwest and 200 locations nationwide, including its network of 35 independently owned rental car firms that operate under the Ace banner. The company had systemwide sales of about $100 million in 2010.
It employs 175 employees overall at its corporate-owned stores and headquarters at 4529 W. 96th St. in Indianapolis.
Parmerlee expects Ace’s national notoriety to bring the company more business. It already has been contacted by a large Seattle corporation inquiring about Ace becoming its preferred rental car company.
“That would have never happened before,” he said. “Our contact center has been getting calls all day long from people who said they had heard about us.”
Parmerlee also anticipates increased interest from independents wanting to become a part of Ace’s network. Even before the survey results, the company had met with 12 independents within the past four months, though none have been signed yet, he said.
Expansion plans could include opening corporate locations in Michigan, Ohio and possibly Kentucky.
Robert Sorensen, who died in 1995, founded Ace in Speedway in 1966 as a car wash that grew into a rental car company. Today, Ace President and co-owner Dick Radzis, based in Chicago, is a co-owner and nephew of Sorensen.
Sorensen’s mantra of “service to customer above all else” still is followed today, which may help to explain Ace’s No. 1 ranking. Enterprise finished second followed by National.
The J.D. Power survey measures customer satisfaction in six categories: costs and fees; pick-up process; return process; rental car; shuttle bus/van; and reservation process.
Ace performed particularly well in the shuttle bus/van and costs-and-fees categories.
Overall, the survey showed that customer satisfaction with rental car companies has increased in all six categories compared with previous-year results.
The average wait time to pick up a rental car also fell to 17 minutes from 20.5 minutes in 2010.