Dollar Expands Wireless Internet Initiative

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Expanding its wireless services, Dollar Rent A Car will allow consumers to not only book vehicles directly from dollar.com via handheld instruments but also through Web-enabled cell phones and pocket PCs.


The move is an attempt by the 36-year-old Dollar, Tulsa, OK, to go beyond its traditional mainstay of leisure travelers.


"In the short term, a niche that we're appealing to are business travelers in the small-to medium-size segment," said Charlie Coniglio, staff vice president of e-commerce at Dollar. "Over time, we think there will be an expansion more into the leisure segment as well, which is our more traditional space."


Dollar, part of the Dollar Thrifty Automotive Group Inc., currently derives nearly 30 percent of its $1.1 billion sales from business travelers and the rest from those renting cars for pleasure. At last count, Dollar had 210,000 vehicles in its worldwide fleet, 97,000 of that accounted by the U.S.


With its latest initiative, consumers can check rates and make and modify reservations online through wireless devices by visiting mobile.dollar.com. Online help and e-mail support is also available.


Coniglio said Dollar garnered 15 percent of its revenue through dollar.com, which has allowed online reservations since 1997. But counting Travelocity.com, Expedia.com and other sites, the Internet accounts for nearly 30 percent of Dollar's revenue.


Dollar.com was redesigned in May. The added Express Rates feature is meant to expedite car rental quotes or reservations.


The marketer is putting considerable marketing muscle behind dollar.com. Only last week it broke an advertisement for dollar.com in USA Today. It even has a dedicated television commercial for the site.


Coniglio said though the U. S. is behind Europe in wireless Internet adoption, it will not be long before it catches up.


The current expansion is "a stab at technology, deal with the latest and get ahead of the curve," Coniglio said.


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