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Hertz Global Holdings CEO Mark P. Frissora with antique Hertz rental cars in the company's lobby located in Park Ridge, N.J.
Hertz Global Holdings CEO Mark P. Frissora with antique Hertz rental cars in the company's lobby located in Park Ridge, N.J. / special to the news-press
news-press.com
news-press.com

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In-depth coverage: Special page on Hertz's impact and what it means for SW Fla.

It started in 1918 with a dozen Model T Fords in Chicago and grew into one of the best-known brands in the world.

Hertz Global, now 293rd on the Fortune 500 list, is 95 years old but built for speed and growth.

“We want to be the fastest, most-valued retail brand in the world,” said Mark P. Frissora, Hertz’s chairman and CEO, in an exclusive interview Monday with The News-Press. “Everything we do will speak to speed.”

Hertz is in the middle of a rebranding, known internally as Project North Star, meant to help drive growth.

The $10 billion company, which in November acquired the Dollar Thrifty Automotive Group, has about 10,400 locations worldwide. It reported a record $2.4 billion in revenue for the first quarter, and Frissora said the company’s on track for fast growth in the coming years. Hertz’s move to Southwest Florida was partly based on it being a growing area with a high quality of life, he said.

The company wants its location at U.S. 41 and Williams Road to be a showcase site, he said. The campus will be a mixture of corporate headquarters and two strong retail operations: a car dealership and a car rental store.

“Something for investors to come down and see, as well as all our travel partners,” Frissora said.

In the company’s rich history, two trends keep emerging. First, its ownership has changed a lot — a long dance of being acquired, then sold or spun off as a separate company again.

Second, it has been a well-known brand pushing speed, customer service and innovation.

In the 1960s, marketing campaigns showed customers getting out to explore their worlds with the slogan: “Let Hertz put you in the driver’s seat.”

In the 1970s and ’80s, there was football star O.J. Simpson, before his fall, hurdling baggage and airport lounge seats as he raced through terminals in a business suit and carrying a briefcase.

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Through the years, stars such as Arnold Palmer, Don Adams, Penny Marshall and Jamie Lee Curtis have touted the brand.

In the 1990s, catchy commercials featured customers who were disappointed when they found out there is Hertz, “and there’s not exactly.”

Through it all, there were ownership changes and acquisitions.

The company has been owned by giants such as General Motors, RCA, UAL and Ford. In December 2005, the company was purchased again by three large investment companies.

In recent years, the company has been gobbling up other fleet management and leasing operations, such as Donlen Corp., Arpielle Equipment Co. and Pioneer Rental.

The company and its managers are involved in charitable causes in the Bergen County, N.J., community and will be involved in Southwest Florida, too, Frissora said.

It also cares about employees, he said. The company surveys employees about satisfaction every six months and just hit its highest scores in New Jersey, he said.

A very practical way to show employees the company cares emerged after Sandy hit New Jersey last October. Gas stations at first were closed, and then had supply problems.

Hertz has large gas tanks because of its business and brought tanker trucks to the company’s parking lot.

Gov. Rick Scott said in an exclusive interview with The News-Press that Hertz is a perfect fit for the Sunshine State with its emphasis on tourism and travel.

“We like the company,” he said. “‘They’re a great company. They have great customer service.”

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