20 Things You Didn’t Know About National Car Rental

National Car Rental is a company that specializes in rental cars. It’s an American company that has seen a period of major success since its inception. We’re highlighting it because of the fact that it’s a popular and dependable resource for Americans throughout the United States and we wanted to let people know a little more about the agency because of its tremendous growth in the industry and the great service its given to so many, so here are 20 things you didn’t know about National Car Rental.

1. National Car Rental was founded by a group of agents

With so many big businesses today, we read about their histories and learn that most were founded by a single entrepreneur or maybe two to three partners. Uniquely, National Car Rental was established by a group of 24 independent rental car agents. This is quite a group and although with so many cooks in the kitchen, there was probably some disagreement over the finer points of launching such an enterprise, they managed to pull it off and start something that would grow in size to become one of the largest agencies in the nation. It seems that having two dozen founders wasn’t such a bad thing after all

2. National has been around for decades

When the group of agents got together to form National, the date was August 27th of 1947. The National Car Rental Agency is certainly not a new business and it has been around for more than seventy years. This is an amazing feat, considering all of the ups and downs that the American economy has experienced. We know that this tired and true company has had to have done something terribly right throughout their long and prosperous run in the auto rental industry.

3. National Car Rental has grown into a giant

The company had established sixty locations in its first year of business. With 24 agents first joining the team, this means that there were more than two for each of the founding members to oversee. As of 2005, the company had expanded its coverage with car rental agencies numbering more than two thousand by 2005. This includes locations within the United States as well as many international sites. They took their operation outside of the borders of the United States and continued to thrive, becoming an international business that serves Americans abroad as well as residents of other national origins.

4. They’re based out of Missouri

The American National Car Rental agency has its headquarters in Clayton, Missouri. They’ve done a lot of moving around during their decades-long run in the business. The first headquarters at the time of their formation was located in St. Louis, Missouri in 1947. The business relocated to Jackson, Mississippi in 1959, and then another move was made in 1965, when National moved its headquarters yet again to Minneapolis, Minnesota. They went through some rough patches financially during this period of the businesses existence and eventually relocated to their current home in Clayton, Missouri.

5. You can actually trace National Car Rental’s origin back to 1916

Here is an interesting and fun fact about National Car Rental that most people are not aware of. Joe Saunders is one of the original owners of the company. He is often credited with the launching of the car rental business in the United States clear back in 1916. Although the name National Car Rental had not yet been conceived, he had already taken the original concept on which the business is based and put it into action with his rental agency. Since he is one of the founding owners of the company, then it’s reasonable to say that National Car Rental can be traced back, at least in its origins to the year 1916.

6. The first team set out to develop a new market

In the mid-1940s, car rentals were not as common, nor as popular of an option as they are today. The group of two dozen car rental agents who got together had the goal of expanding their businesses and to make the American public more aware, first that they existed and were an option, and secondly to create a solid market niche for the operations since this had not yet been accomplished. It was their goal to develop the car market industry, which was still in its fledgling stage of development. We can see by looking back over the history that they were, in fact, an important group in the history of this industry and they’ve made a lot of significant contributions to the development of the industry, which is now in high-demand and virtually booming.

7. National went through rough waters in 1965

In 1965, National Car Rental was taken over by an investment group that was based out of Minneapolis, Minnesota. This is the reason for the relocation of their headquarters to the city. The company had been doing well up until this time, but once they were situated at the new location, the new headquarters only employed seven workers. Their operation was estimated at $12 million in annual revenues and their losses were estimated at $2.77 million. It wasn’t a good move for the company and it was struggling to get back on top. This is the problem when there is a takeover with new investors. It can either help the business or hurt it and in this case, the results were not as favorable as what would have been preferred.

8. National Car Rental is owned by Enterprise Holdings

National Car Rental is not a stand-alone company. Even though the franchise is well known and it has grown into a huge corporation, they answer to a parent company. Enterprise Holdings, Inc, is the actual corporate owner of the company. If the name sounds familiar to you, it should, because they are also the owners of Enterprise Rent-A-Car and they also own Alamo Rent a Car.

9. National was worth a billion in 1995

National has gone through a series of sales and changing of ownership throughout the years. A majority of the ownership stock was bought up by Paine Webber, the American brokerage firm in 1987. In 1995, National fell under the ownership of an investment group of which William Lobeck and Alvin Swanner, respectively of Tulsa and New Orleans as well as Archer McWhorter of Houston Texas. These were big names in finance as Lobeck was Chrysler’s car rental division’s president. He also had previously owned Thrifty Rent A Car, one of National’s direct competitors. When it was sold later in 1995, it went for a whopping $1 billion.

10. National made an acquisition in 1996

One of the more brilliant moves in terms of growth and expansion made by National Car Rental was the acquisition of an international company. National bought Tilden Rent-a-Car in 1996. Tilden was one of the oldest and biggest businesses in the industry in Canada and this gave National an international presence in the country of Canada. In the deal, National gained the entire operations of the Canadian giant.

11. National was acquired by Republic Industries in 1996

The game of acquisitions was on as Republic Industries which would later change its name to AutoNation purchased National Car Rental. Proof of the volatile market was seen when just one year later, the company filed for bankruptcy and all its properties were sold. Yet more changes were coming to National Car Rental in just a short period of time. Vanguard Automotive group bought National along with all its other properties and it was controlled by Cerberus Capital Management.

12. National was involved in a game of chess

This is more figurative than a literal estimation of what was happening on the financial and ownership end of National. The constant change in ownership with such consistency, though is a bit unusual. In 2003, Vanguard Automotive Group had taken charge of National Car Rental and by 2007, less than four years later, Enterprise Rent-A-Car took control of Vanguard Automotive Group. This represented another change in the ultimate ownership of the company, which had miraculously, still maintained a significant value in the market.

13. National Car Rental is affiliated with multiple international groups

In addition to acquiring the Tilden Interrent company of Canada, National went on to make several other significant international agreements and acquisitions. They added to their international affiliations by partnering with Nippon Interrent of Japan and Europcar Interrent. This put them in 130 different countries throughout the world with a network of over five thousand rental locations.

14. National Car Rental almost went under in 1992

The most troubling time in the history of National Car Rental happened in 1992. The company had been bounced from pillar to post and from one owner to another, but nothing was as devastating for them than the time when they were the leveraged buyout of the deal struck by Vincent A. Wasik, the former chairman of National. Wasik was forced out of his position by GM executives and left the company in 1992. National was losing its market share at the alarming rate of $100 million annually. Two years later it was still struggling to turn things around, but it managed to land on its feet again.

15. National Car Rental developed a subsidiary company

With all of its history of being the subsidiary of other companies or falling under their control at least, National created a subsidiary company of its own. The name of the company is National Car Rental System International, Ltd. They did this when their business started growing and expanding internationally. The subsidiary was created in 1970 and within just two short years they operated a total of 1,700 different rental stations throughout the United States with a network of additional locations in 57 countries throughout the world and 700 locations within those countries.

16. National Car Rental achieved a first in the industry

Here is yet another novel fact about National Car Rental that most people are not aware of. They were the first car rental company in history to install a computer system that was centralized. This was an innovative move that greatly enhanced their ability to conduct business in a more streamlined and orderly fashion. It also helped them to grow as a company.

17. They added new operations to the business

National Car Rental was known for renting automobiles and trucks, but as they expanded their car rental network through Eastern Europe including Russia and locations in Africa and the Middle East, they added other ventures to their operations. They developed what was called the EZ Haul division which included rentals of trucks and trailers. There was a new emphasis placed on fleet sales which were made to the general public.

18. National Car Rental grew in sales

In 1980, National Car Rental became a popular place to purchase used automobiles, trucks and trailers. On average, they sold 12,000 cars annually. This represented a fifteen percent increase in the total percentage of their fleet which was being sold, compared to their 1974 fleet sales of just 5 percent. They were maintaining a newer fleet which meant that the vehicles were later models and the public was getting more bang for their buck so to speak.

19. GM perceived them as a threat to auto sales

When shoppers learned that they could purchase used vehicles that were still in good condition from National Car Rental there was concern among GM staffers that it would impact their new and used car sales. National’s vehicles were being offered at lower prices than GM could or were willing to offer theirs for. In an agreement to satisfy the discomfort of GM along with many other automakers, National Car Rental agreed to make concessions and set a few buy-back requirements into place, prior to National receiving any deliveries of new fleets from the companies. This was a mutually acceptable agreement where nobody got hurt financially in the process and the automakers felt better about the situation.

20. National flopped at limo rentals

National Car Rental made a lot of great decisions that were successful throughout their long history, but they’ve made a few that didn’t work out as well. One venture, in particular, was a miserable failure. They attempted to rent limousines and classic cars. While these may have been novel ventures, they didn’t work out well for the business and when it became clear that these were not profitable ventures, they were suspended.


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