I'm done with Hertz... another week, another dirty, smelly, raggedy Cobalt. I complained about it at the counter and the agent didn't offer me any alternative. The car, when I found it, was gross. It had what appeared to be bird droppings on the dashboard. I went back inside to the counter to complain more specifically, and all the agents pretended to be busy and determinedly avoided me. They apparently recognized why I had come back. When I turn the car in, I know they won't ask me whether I was satisfied with the rental - they never do, unlike most of the other rental companies. In the future I'll rent from Enterprise, or National. No more Hertz.
Bottom line up front: The absolute bottom of the automotive food chain.
Usually I rent from Enterprise - generally good service, fairly new, clean cars, good prices, and you can print out your receipt online, which is a big plus.
The Prius the other day came from Enterprise. They called it an "upgrade", but since I had asked for a compact car, I didn't really think so, but it was a novelty.
Routinely Enterprise gives me a 2- or 3-class upgrade. Not long ago I was in Salt Lake City with skis - I had reserved a compact (as always), and they saw the skis and gave me a totally duded-up Explorer for no extra charge. If you're renting a car, I recommend Enterprise.
It regularly surprises me how simple stuff in business sometimes eludes seemingly large, smart companies. Enterprise is an example of a good business - giving me a nicer car when they have them sitting around costs them essentially nothing, and now I'm giving them free advertising that will live forever in Google's cache.
On the other hand...
When I fly United (about whom I don't have much good to say either, but they own the only flights in some of the routes I fly), I usually rent from Hertz because I get double miles for the rental. I don't know if Hertz has gone to crap everywhere, but it looks that way to me.
I don't remember the last time I got a car from Hertz that had less than 25000 miles on it, was clean, and didn't smell funky. Even thought they usually have a lot of really fancy cars sitting around, they seem to always give me the crappiest car they have available. Not sure what the point of that might be. And they seem to charge more for it. The rentals are almost always on the expense account or I wouldn't be renting from Hertz. If it was coming out of my pocket I'd do something else.
I usually get a crappier car than I realized was even out there. This time was no exception. Hertz gave me a Chevy Cobalt with about 29000 miles. It was dirty, the carpets were badly stained, and it smelled really strange. It had power nothing - well maybe power steering, but I'm not even sure about that. It was loud, it had weird vibrations, and it used a surprisingly large amount of gas for such a small car.
While I realize this car may not completely represent General Motors' product line, it really seemed to symbolize their situation - a cheap economy car that wasn't very economical and offered a hell of a lot less for the money than most of their competitors. As I was driving it, I kept thinking "this is what the Federal government is throwing away my future to preserve". I kept picturing those $75-per-hour UAW workers assembling this rolling piece of FOD and thinking about moving to Australia, where I could purchase the 60th-anniversary Land Rover Defender 110 brand new for about 45K.
(Defender 110s in the United States is a discussion for another time... I want one, but I'm not willing to pay 7-8 times the global average to have one here in the States.)
The Chevy Cobalt seemed to have essentially nothing to recommend it. The one I drove looks (from brief Googling) to be about $15K new. I can scarcely imagine a worse value. You can have a Toyota Corolla or a Honda Civic for the same money, and the difference in terms of value and quality is more than 100% - it's so dramatic you can't even characterize it. I can think of no more obvious example of what's wrong with GM than the fact that the Chevy Cobalt costs the same as a Civic or a Corolla. Had you told me that was true before I started writing this post I wouldn't have believed it.
If they are the same money, why is Hertz renting Chevy Cobalts? Especially raggedy, stripped-down, bad-smelling Cobalts? There's something going on there that isn't consistent with my understanding of the free market.
I used to think Hertz was associated with Ford. Ford's various small cars are far superior to the GM equivalents - and Ford didn't take any bailout money. While I used to be an actual GM fan and didn't like Fords, the situation has completely reversed in the last 20 years or so. I've driven several small Ford rental cars, and had no significant complaints, although they weren't Corollas or Civics either.
But in recent history I've gotten a steady stream of dirty Chevys, Kias, and Hyundais from Hertz, vs. Fords, Chryslers (who I'm kind of contrarian and positive about), and various quality Japanese models from Enterprise. (Also I don't want to dis Hyundai - some of their latest cars are very good, but the ones I've gotten from Herts were crap.)
We need to let the free market work: crappy products at crappy prices should be allowed to fail in the marketplace. The fact that we're artificially preventing this from happening makes me want to go live in a cave.