Apparently, less is more.
Here’s what the agent said:
Alamo, which was recently bought by Enterprise, did a universal car class change to match all three sister companies categories. Enterprise converted Alamo/Nationals categories to mirror the way they categorize their vehicles.
The G5 (A Cobalt disguised as a Pontiac) is a midsize.
They’re considering the Toyota Yaris hatchback as a compact.
The Ford Focus is also considered a midsize.
The Mitsubishi Gallant, now a fullsize.
The Chevy Equinox, traditionally a midsize SUV, now a standard SUV.
Hang on. Who cares about these reclassifications?
If you rent from Alamo, you should. Because the classifications don’t match the manufacturers car class designations, or even your own understanding of a vehicle’s size.
The first three categories are a blur. The midsize may truly be no larger than the economy. The new class added “standard” now has the Pontiac Vibe, bumped up from midsize and the Toyota Matrix.
What’s more, Enterprise has a commanding market share, and its moves are sure to be followed by the other car rental companies, says my source. “I’m sure Hertz, Avis/Budget, Dollar/Thrifty will soon make similar changes as they’ve done within the past few years,” he adds.
If you’re wondering why I’m giving an anonymous source such prominence in a posting, it’s because … well, he’s right. I checked with Alamo, and it acknowledged that it had reclassified the cars. But it says the change isn’t out of line.
Our own criteria for determining car classes start with dimensions, but also take into consideration seats and cargo space, as well as a manufacturers’ selling price.
This process allows us to price cars differently and reasonably — for example, a Mini Cooper vs. Chevrolet Aveo — even if they have similar dimensions. We also sometimes charge higher rates for vehicles that are new and novel (like the Dodge Challenger), because manufacturers charge significantly more for some select new entries into the market, especially if they are in short supply.
Vehicle classes in the car rental industry are subject to change — car rental companies’ criteria and fleet make-up may change over time. And, reflecting the car industry’s inherent competitiveness, such criteria also varies from company to company.
My Alamo insider has another take on it: “It’s a lesser product.”
I think Enterprise has the right to reclassify its Alamo fleet any way it wants to. And its reasons for doing so make some sense. But car rental customers need to be aware that when they rent a car, they may not be getting what they think.
Read the car rental classifications carefully before making a reservation.