Car rental FAIL? Industry misses a “D” by one point — again

endPretend, for a minute, that car rental companies are high school students. The average class grade on a recet test is 73 percent, which is a C- and, truth be told, just a point away from a D.

Would you:

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a) Shut up and try to do better on the next exam.
b) Complain to the teacher.
c) Tell the world about your achievement.

Did you say “C”? Well, after our friends at J.D. Power and Associates released its 2009 U.S. Rental Car Satisfaction Study, the industry seems pretty pleased with itself, particularly those who scored more of those mysterious but ultimately meaningless circles.

Overall satisfaction averaged just 733 on a 1,000-point scale in 2009, down from 734 in 2008. In comparison, overall satisfaction declined by 16 points in 2007 and 17 points in 2008.

What does this mean to you?

J.D., which won’t reveal the actual scores of the car rental companies — at least not in its news release — offers the following analysis:

The stabilization of overall satisfaction is largely a result of the rental car industry effectively responding to economic pressures. In particular, many rental car companies have focused on containing operating costs by “right-sizing” their fleets to meet changing consumer demand and extending the service life of their vehicles, allowing them to delay orders for replacements. This has enabled many rental car companies to decrease their rental fees.

I’m not sure if that has anything to do with your rental experience, other than that it will probably be worse this year than in years past.

This is nothing to celebrate. The “winners” should be embarrassed to be a part of this industry. And the rest should be ashamed of themselves.

And J.D.? They ought to release the actual scores instead of publishing euphemistic brownie points that just confuse the average customer.

(Photo: PhotoGraham/Flickr Creative Commons)