FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. -- The new owners of the Alamo and National car rental brands will focus on distinguishing the two entities, promoting National to road warriors and Alamo to leisure travelers.

As reported, ANC Rental Corp., which went into bankruptcy reorganization two years ago, completed the sale of its Alamo and National units to Cerberus Capital Management, which will operate the brands under the name Vanguard Car Rental USA.

Cerberus, a New York-based private investment group, paid $230 million in cash and assumed $2.06 billion in liabilities.

"Our job is to restore the confidence the high-frequency business traveler had in National and to make sure Alamo is positioned as the value brand," said Vanguard CEO William Lobeck, who previously ran Alamo and National when they were part of AutoNation.

As part of its reorganization strategy, ANC had consolidated the Alamo and National brands at more than 175 airports, but Vanguard's focus on brand distinction will bring back separate counters.

"The Alamo and National customers are, for the most part, different customers," said Jon LeSage, research director for Abrams Travel Data in Long Beach, Calif. "It's been challenging for ANC/Vanguard to provide a seamless customer experience," he said, adding that "Vanguard will have to scramble to better understand their clients' renting habits and to gain back some share."

He noted that "the new management seems to want to start by reinvigorating the strengths and value of each brand," both of which still have strong pull with consumers.

Vanguard also intends to replace the two firms' fleet of more than 155,000 vehicles with 2004 models by next spring. About three-quarters of the cars already have been replaced. Vanguard has fleet deals with General Motors and DaimlerChrysler.

To contact reporter Jorge Sidron, send e-mail to [email protected].

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