It’s been a strange few years for the car rental industry. After the COVID-19 pandemic decimated companies that rely on travel and tourism, most car rental companies closed many airport kiosks and other locations as they rushed to adjust services and introduce new products and features.
But the aftermath of a global pandemic is just one of many simultaneous challenges people like Kaisey Kenkel are working to overcome. She’s the vice president of design, construction, electric vehicle (EV), and facilities at Hertz. Kenkel says she and her colleagues are also responding to other noteworthy emerging factors like new car sharing competitors and the rise of electric vehicles.
“Many of the changes happening represent opportunity. These changes are good because some of them are attracting customers and Hertz is leading the way,” she explains.
Hertz, which also owns Dollar Car Rental and Thrifty Car Rental, announced plans in 2022 to partner with bp pulse, bp’s global electrification and charging solution brand, to build a network of EV charging stations across the country. This followed news that Hertz is in investing in the largest EV rental fleet in North America and one of the largest in the world through large-scale purchases from Tesla, Polestar, and GM.
That means that Kenkel and Hertz must work quickly to prepare themselves, their facilities, and their customers. When American Builders Quarterly last spoke with Kenkel in 2021, she was running design and construction. Now, she’s added facilities, EV partnerships, EV infrastructure, fueling, and environmental issues to her scope.
In January 2023, Hertz launched Hertz Electrifies, an initiative to build partnerships with local governments that accelerate EV adoption. The program’s five pillars aim to add EV fleets and public charging stations, create jobs with a Hertz curriculum, broaden economic opportunity by special rental agreements for rideshare drivers, increase community engagement, and use telematics to assist in policy and city planning.
Hertz has already installed more than 3,000 Level 2 EV charging stations and 100 superchargers across 683 cities worldwide. Kenkel says that number grows every week.
This work is critical because the government is pushing mandated timelines for EV adoption. But since many consumers have never ridden in—let alone rented—an EV, there is a steep learning curve. Hertz has responded by providing robust digital and other educational content and featuring prominent URLs on its homepage, like “Where can I charge my electric car?”
The company has also deployed “EV ambassadors” at key airport locations and recently held one of the nation’s largest EV test drives at Los Angeles International Airport—the first in a series—where hundreds of people came to Hertz for an introduction to EVs of various makes and models.
EVs are just one of many projects Kenkel’s team has going. Since 2022, she’s been busy refreshing Hertz’s top 20 airport locations like those in Detroit, Dallas, Atlanta, and Phoenix. The work included major overhauls to introduce LED screens, improved customer wayfinding, and other modern touches that improve the customer experience.
“Our designers put themselves in the shoes of a customer renting a car late at night in a location that’s new for them,” Kenkel says. “We have limited space, but we want to use it to help people finish their transactions and get to their car as fast as possible.”
Deep experience and legacy knowledge help Kenkel lead her new teams well. She was born and raised in St. Louis and studied mechanical engineering at Washington University before moving to Florida and taking an entry-level level job with Hertz. A decade ago, Kenkel was preparing 3D renderings, eclectic layouts, and other basic design elements for all locations nationwide. She earned a reputation for accuracy, persistence, and productivity that helped her grow in her career, earn trust, and build strong relationships.
“I’ve had many roles, I’ve encountered many issues, and I’ve traveled to many sites,” Kenkel says. “That means I can bridge the communications gaps between team members and senior leaders. I’ve been there. I’ve done it.”
The motivated leader is also passionate about her French bulldog, Frankie. When ABQ last spoke with her, young Frankie was adjusting to life in his new home. Now, he’s an older brother to another Frenchie: Tucker. “It’s double trouble. They’re best friends,” Kenkel says.
When she’s not chasing her dogs around, Kenkel is busy ensuring Hertz maintains its status as a leader and innovator as it pursues continued market share. It’s important work. Modor Intelligence’s recent Car Rental Market Analysis says the market that accounted for $119.28 billion in 2021 is on track to top $223 billion by 2027.
Buildrite Construction is proud to work together with Hertz Car Rental and its forward-thinking leaders, like Kaisey Kenkel, to ensure that local operations have the logistical means to maintain its strong customer base. The years of experience working closely with Mrs. Kenkel and her team has allowed our company to gain the knowledge needed to ensure successful operations for companies like Hertz. We proudly join in celebrating Kaisey’s career at Hertz Car Rental Company!