Priceline Seeks to Drive Growth With New Luxury Car-Rental Service

NEW YORK (TheStreet) -- Investors who are interested in Priceline (PCLN)PCLN are probably focused on the company's announcement last month that it has agreed to acquire OpenTable (OPEN)OPEN, an online restaurant reservation service, for $2.6 billion.

They may be overlooking Priceline's rapidly growing car-rental business.

Late last month, Priceline launched a luxury- and specialty-car-rental service called Fun Rides, which could be a big boost for the company. Priceline is offering luxury cars such as BMWs, Mercedes Benzes and Cadillacs as well as specialty cars such as the Mini Cooper and the Toyota (TM)TM Prius.

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Car rentals are a fast-growing part of Priceline's business. First-quarter unit sales, as measured by the number of car rental days, rose 24.6% from a year earlier. That follows a strong year in 2013, when quarterly unit sales growth ranged from 27.5% in the third quarter to 46.3% in the second quarter.

With Fun Rides, which will have Priceline's name-your-own-price model, Priceline is hoping to tap into a large pool of unsatisfied car-rental customers. A company survey found that 51% of Americans are disappointed in their rental car while on vacation.

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