Automakers have always known that the best way to sell a car is to put potential buyers behind the wheel. With that in mind, savvy car manufacturers have tapped into the rental car industry to entice renters – studies show they are twice as likely to buy a new vehicle within the next six months – as potential new customers, and use them for market research.

General Motors is piloting a program with its Chevrolet brand that puts its midsize Malibu sedans in Enterprise Rent-A-Car fleets located in markets popular with that type of buyer. To nudge interested renters towards the showroom, QR Codes have been placed prominently in the vehicles. When conveniently scanned by a smartphone, the codes connect users to Chevrolet's website where they can find specifications, pricing and dealership locations.

Chrysler Group is also working with Enterprise, but taking things a step further. Its QR Codes not only send people to the automaker's website, it links them to walk-around videos and offers them discounts on vehicle purchases in a manner similar to targeted direct mail. But selling cars isn't Chrysler's only objective, as they have been working with renters to gather opinions on vehicle factors including engine power and cabin comfort. If you've got a captive audience, why not?


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  • 34 Comments
      David
      • 1 Year Ago
      It works both ways. Some of my rentals turned me off said car so much that I wouldn't take it for free!
      mycommentemail
      • 1 Year Ago
      I rented a small Chevy SUV (can't remember the name of it) recently. It was the only thing on the lot so I was stuck with it. The only takeaway I got from the experience was that I would never ever buy one. Same with the Impala I got the previous time. Nor the Altima (which couldn't seem to get out of its own way when trying to turn). Nor most of the cars I get. It is really eye opening how many bad cars there are out there (and how I always seem to get them at the rental counter).
        Jason Golden
        • 1 Year Ago
        @mycommentemail
        I'm torn on the mass-rental use of the Captiva Sport, mostly for the sake of the IMPRESSION it makes on so many renters. Yet I understand the CS as fleet-only model, for the preservation of value on Equinoxes, for example. I'm sure GM did a bunch of analysis on this at some point. But... how many renters come away from a Captiva Sport thinking "crude" or worse, and then overlay that impression on the Chevy brand in general?
        SatinSheetMetal
        • 1 Year Ago
        @mycommentemail
        I had a Dodge Caliber for a month while my wife's car was getting bodywork done, I will never willingly step into or recommend a dodge to anyone.
        Jerry
        • 1 Year Ago
        @mycommentemail
        LOL you got a Captiva I bet! The only reason they are renting those in the USA is that it is selling terribly in other parts of the world. They are dumping their over capacity on the USA rental fleets at a huge discount.
      jay4e
      • 1 Year Ago
      yeah i can see this working if higher end brands give free upgrade promotions for their cars. but most of the cars and crossovers i have rented have felt like, well cheap rental cars...
        SatinSheetMetal
        • 1 Year Ago
        @jay4e
        This is more targeted. This is for people renting a car to buy, not renting a cheap car to have a cheap car for a few days. You can actually shell out some major dough and rent a BMW or a Chrysler 300 or something. Being cheap at a rental agency gets you a cheap car basically.
      Dean
      • 1 Year Ago
      This idea could work really well, or it could completely backfire. I've had good rental cars that I probably wouldn't mind owning, bad rental cars that have turned me away from some brands completely, and even had rental cars completely change my mind about some brands. It all depends on the product.
      Jonathan Wayne
      • 1 Year Ago
      Rentals are a good way of evaluating if you like a car. I had a friend that recently rented a nicely loaded Subaru Legacy sedan and he liked it so much he bought one. I had a rental Mazda 3 station wagon/hatchback on a trip recently and that was a pretty nice low priced car for someone, lots of features and looks good. You can evaluate whether you will truly be happy with a car much better if you rent it for a few days as opposed to a short test drive.
      • 1 Year Ago
      [blocked]
      Jason Golden
      • 1 Year Ago
      Two days ago, I helped a pal close the deal on a new 2013 Malibu. We spent the weekend comparing similar sedans (Altima, 200, Legacy, Accord) on paper and out on the road. The Malibu fulfills his needs, and the value is impressive. Interior features, sound deadening, and power-train smoothness are so much better than I expected. I've knocked this car previously, but that was before spending time with one on the road. As a final thought, compared to the regular-cab F-150 he traded in, the Malibu's back seat is perfect for his big clumsy dog, weekly groceries, and the occasional passenger or two - when a Houston night out is on the menu.
        blasds78
        • 1 Year Ago
        @Jason Golden
        Also as a serious question... At which Chevrolet dealership do you sell cars?
          Jason Golden
          • 1 Year Ago
          @blasds78
          I tend to accompany most of my friends and family with their car comparisons and purchases. My enthusiasm for product, along with my personality, make for..ummm...passionate descriptions of my observations. On Good Friday, I accompanied a pal for his final selection and purchase of a new BMW X1. A full review is coming. Saturday was sedan shopping. Base trim levels only. If I was the sedan buyer in this case, I go for an Accord EX-L.
        Jerry
        • 1 Year Ago
        @Jason Golden
        Did they slap $5000 on the hood and throw in 10 years of free service or something?
        xxmixedxtapexx
        • 1 Year Ago
        @Jason Golden
        I still don't see a compelling reason for getting the new Malibu. It seems like GM tried to create an American Camry with their design/materials. The Accord, Altima, Mazda6, and Fusion are all leaps and bounds better than the Malibu from a refinement standpoint. When i sat in the Malibu at the auto show - the top-of-the-line model, I couldn't stand the fake wood and plastic interior as well as the blocky seats. I compared this to the above mentioned and felt that GM is right in rushing an emergency refresh of this car. The old Malibu was much better, this seems like it was dumbed down to encourage sales of the new Impala that's coming out (which looks like a great car IMO) that also costs a decent amount more.
      TruthHertz
      • 1 Year Ago
      Let's hope for Chevy's sake that the renter doesn't test drive ANY other car.
      Stephen Walton
      • 1 Year Ago
      Aren't cars in rental fleets BECAUSE they don't sell at retail?
      The Wasp
      • 1 Year Ago
      This seems like a good idea. It would be really nice if they could reduce rental rates on account of placing manufacturer ads inside the car. As a renter, I would also be happy to rent a car with additional internal or external ads as a means to reduce the rental rate. Consolidation of the rental agency is concerning -- rental rates are high already and it seems unlikely consolidation will help the consumer at all.
      Awhattup
      • 1 Year Ago
      I didn't like my rental Focus... now that's a negative side of it.
      NightFlight
      • 1 Year Ago
      Toyota did this already with the 2011 Avalon.
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