The Truth About Cars » Rental http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. Tue, 01 Sep 2015 18:20:13 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=4.2.4 The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. The Truth About Cars no The Truth About Cars editors@ttac.com editors@ttac.com (The Truth About Cars) 2006-2009 The Truth About Cars The Truth About Cars » Rental http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/wp-content/themes/ttac-theme/images/logo.gif http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com If You Drive A Smart Today, You Can Drive An Exotic Later http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/08/drive-smart-today-can-drive-exotic-later/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/08/drive-smart-today-can-drive-exotic-later/#comments Wed, 26 Aug 2015 13:00:40 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1152137 Two weeks ago, I wrote about the slings and arrows of car2go membership. A few members of the B&B took issue with my claim that car2go was the cheapest way to operate an automobile. One of them decided to do the math. And did he ever. If you have a modern version of Microsoft Excel […]

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Two weeks ago, I wrote about the slings and arrows of car2go membership. A few members of the B&B took issue with my claim that car2go was the cheapest way to operate an automobile. One of them decided to do the math.

And did he ever.

If you have a modern version of Microsoft Excel you can download his spreadsheet at this link. It doesn’t work perfectly in OpenOffice, but other than “Free Software” nutjobs such as myself I doubt anybody uses OpenOffice, so that’s totally fine.

“Being in finance allows me to separate hype from speculation (most of the time),” he notes, and since he’s one of our readers who hails from outside the United States, about sixteen hours by air outside in this case, I’ll give him a pass on the idea that “being in finance” and “speculation” are anything but joined at the hip. The spreadsheet allows you to plug in various values for leasing vs. buying vs. car2go. What I like about it is that it allows you tweak nearly every parameter instead of limiting you to fixed assumptions about pricing or residuals.

Having fussed with the spreadsheet for an hour or so, I can tell you that it is very difficult to make the numbers come out in favor of leasing or owning unless you really get funny with your assumptions or you plan for some very long trips behind the wheel of a Smart. But even TTAC readers who have no intention of ever getting behind the wheel of a shared automobile will enjoy the lease vs. buy calculations.

Some of us, however, require a little more out of our lives than the quiet satisfaction of knowing that one has thoroughly crunched the numbers and reduced one’s transportation expenses to a minimum, all the better to save a million dollars or so in today’s Bernankified fiat currency for an extra thirty days’ worth of life in a nightmarish assisted-living facility at the dementia-ridden end of one’s mortal coil. So our anonymous-by-request B&Ber has thoughtfully added a corner to the spreadsheet that allows one to plan a splurge with one’s savings. It includes a flight to California and an exotic-car rental. There’s even space for some expenses at the Chateau Marmont, where your humble author took a BMW i8 a few months ago and where it is possible, given the right combination of car, cash, and confidence, to engage in unprotected sex with someone who had a minor role in an episode of a made-for-cable sitcom. If that is not an incentive to save a bit on your daily grind, I don’t know what is!

I’d encourage you to download the spreadsheet and try your own calculations. Let us know how it goes. As for me — well, I compared car2go with leasing an Aventador or buying a Viper ACR, and I can state with conviction that the car-share service is definitely the lowest-cost option.

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Rental Van With Low-Pressure Tire Warning Rolls, Injuring Six Children; No Charges To Be Filed http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/07/rental-van-low-pressure-tire-warning-rolls-injures-six-children-no-charges-filed/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/07/rental-van-low-pressure-tire-warning-rolls-injures-six-children-no-charges-filed/#comments Wed, 08 Jul 2015 13:00:16 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1109049 When Maggie Dajani realized that the tire-pressure warning light was on in the van she’d rented to take six teenagers and their parents to a One Direction concert in El Paso, she took the van back to the rental company. A representative of the company, Star Limo, told her not to worry. She then continued […]

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When Maggie Dajani realized that the tire-pressure warning light was on in the van she’d rented to take six teenagers and their parents to a One Direction concert in El Paso, she took the van back to the rental company. A representative of the company, Star Limo, told her not to worry. She then continued to the concert. Shortly afterwards, the van blew two tires and rolled over. Several motorists helped drag the ten passengers out of the van, which was filling with smoke. The children went to the hospital with various injuries, and one of them reportedly received one hundred and fifty stitches as a result.

Now, the New Mexico Public Regulatory Commission has delivered a very, ahem, business-friendly verdict on the whole ordeal. Turns out that Star Limo is the beneficiary of a unique combination of regulatory conditions.

There is little doubt about the circumstances of the accident, as reported late last year:

According to State Police, the driver was driving at a safe speed when the outer tread of one of the van’s rear tires came off, causing the crash. Their report indicates Motor Transportation Police inspected Star Limo’s vehicles a month earlier, in August, and there were no safety violations.

Most business travelers and other people who rent vehicles fairly often can tell at least one story where they had to return their rental vehicle for some egregious issue that had been totally overlooked by the spectacularly indifferent employees that seem to universally populate rental lots, particularly ones located at or near an airport. It’s not difficult to imagine the apathetic response Ms. Dajani received when she tried to complain about a TPMS light; I’ve had exactly the same response when I’ve complained about TPMS lights in rental cars.

This would seem to be the kind of open-and-shut case that would result in civil — if not criminal — penalties for someone, but it turns out that Star Limo, and this rental van, fall into a very convenient hole in the enforcement framework:

But the case surrounding the rental van is unique. Motor Transportation Police said it’s too small to be a commercial vehicle, so it’s not within their enforcement. The Public Regulation Commission said since it was used as a rental vehicle, not a charter, it’s not in its jurisdiction to investigate the crash. However, the PRC can investigate Star Limo.

The results of that “investigation” were released last week:

Star Limo is regulated under the PRC because they offer limousine services. But Director Bryan Brock said that van was rented out and that no one from Star Limo was actually driving.

“Rental car companies don’t provide transportation,” Brock said. “They provide cars for people to use and to transport themselves but that’s different than what we oversee.”

Brock and other PRC officials said there is no official state agency that actually regulates rental car companies here in New Mexico.

Oh, okay, as long as that’s the case, I guess we can all just forget about it. And some people have forgotten about it — one of the regional news stations just did an advertorial-style piece encouraging local teens to hurry up and choose Star Limo for prom. But I wouldn’t go buying stock in Star Limo just yet. The next step for this story is surely a long day in a civil courtroom. And the moral of said story: If you are faced with believing that either a tire-pressure sensor or a rental-car agency employee is “defective”, choose the latter.

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2015 Chevrolet Silverado 2WD LT Crew Cab Reader Review http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/06/2015-chevrolet-silverado-2wd-lt-crew-cab-reader-review/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/06/2015-chevrolet-silverado-2wd-lt-crew-cab-reader-review/#comments Mon, 22 Jun 2015 16:00:15 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1097249 Just a couple of months ago, GM quietly announced their factory 5 year/100k mile powertrain warranty was going to henceforth be downgraded to a 60k mile powertrain warranty because their cars are all fine now and customers don’t care about long-term warranties. About 48 hours after this was announced, my wife found herself limping along […]

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2015 Chevy Silverado 2WD LT Crew Cab

Just a couple of months ago, GM quietly announced their factory 5 year/100k mile powertrain warranty was going to henceforth be downgraded to a 60k mile powertrain warranty because their cars are all fine now and customers don’t care about long-term warranties.

About 48 hours after this was announced, my wife found herself limping along the side of a major road in our 2010 Malibu with 90k miles on the odometer, engine revving, but little transmission of power taking place between the engine and the wheels.

I told her to keep on limping directly to the service center at our local Chevy dealer. My beautiful wife, brilliant in so many ways, bee-lined for the first “service” sign she saw, which happened to be the Ford dealer directly across the street from the Chevy dealer. After parking the car, she was told “wrong brand”, and tried to put the Malibu into reverse – a request the vehicle denied. We therefore had to arrange for GM to embarrassingly tow our still new-looking Malibu from the Ford lot across the street, under our valuable 100k warranty, for the 6-speed GM-Daewoo automatic was well and truly shot for the 2nd time in our 90k miles of ownership (1st rebuild took place at 27k).

2015 Chevy Silverado 2WD LT Crew CabWhen the dealer handed me the keys to the loaner – a 2015 Silverado LT 2WD Crew Cab with 850 miles on the odometer – first impressions weren’t so great. For starters, the massive chrome face on this truck is hideous. This truck needs a facelift, or a bag on it’s head. From all other angles, it is okay, and even conservatively handsome.

I climbed inside (even though I’m 6-foot-4) and things mostly got better. The steering wheel is made of high quality materials and feels perfect in my hands, the seats are wide and comfortable and the fabric nice, storage space everywhere, legibly clean gauges, acres of space both front and back, and even a three across front bench option if I fold up the wide and versatile console. Yet some downsides exist: the lowest-bidder outsourced keyfob is insultingly cheap and clickety-clacks with a hollow thin plastic resonance against the even-cheaper plastic covering the lower steering column while you drive. No one paying more than $15,000 for a car should ever have to put up with that. Also, the graphics on the MyLink interface upon startup look like they were developed by a Chinese iPad knockoff manufacturer (probably were). Bluetooth audio streaming worked wonderfully, but the (must have been) base sound system was muddy and full of too much bass. The overall impression, however, aside from these rather small niggling things, is massive versatility and space, and stout construction. 

2015 Chevy Silverado 2WD LT Crew Cab

Strangely, the Silverado cranked disconcertingly long on cold start ups – about twice as long as warm starts. This may not indicate a problem, but GM can’t afford to give me any reason for quality concerns, given the reason I’m driving this beast in the first place. However, once it kicked over, things became quite likeable. Driving this long, powerful, stout vehicle felt like piloting a road train. The ride had a typical unloaded truck jitter. However, it was immensely quiet.  Steering and brakes were accurate, and the long wheelbase made for a secure sense of tracking, despite being an unloaded truck. The view over the hood was commanding and expansive.

I got into a trucking mood and put this thing to work….hauling a massive credenza from the in-laws, picking up a 10-piece patio furniture set purchased on Craigslist (all of which fit into the bed), hauling ~1000 lbs of top soil for the garden, taking my son to his first t-ball practice, and then the family out to an affordable cheeseburger dinner that night with my wife snuggled up next to me on the bench seat (for about 3 sweet minutes until she had enough). It was pure ‘Merica, and it was pure awesome. 

Transmission shifts were mostly imperceptible, and not once did the transmission break the entire time I had the truck! And as the saying goes, GM sells you an engine and throws in everything else for free. The 5.3 liters of pushrod V8 power gets 355 horses and 383 lb-ft of torque out of regular horse piss 87 octane, ensuring when you stomp on the pedal this massive load of metal moves with unreal authority. I got into it over and over just to hear the combination of the motor’s growl and my kids’ (3 and 5) squealing laughter from the back seat. They loved this truck, and the kid in me really liked it, too. Reported 0-60 times of a little over 6 seconds seem real, and not that long ago, that was muscle car territory. It seems crazy – it is crazy – for such a large, agricultural vehicle to move like that. You see, people, trucks are fun! 

2015 Chevy Silverado 2WD LT Crew CabThanks to (imperceptible) cylinder deactivation, the Silverado frequently fell into 4-cylinder mode while cruising. This certainly contributed to the most mind-blowing thing of all – a recorded 18.5 mpg throughout the 300+ miles I drove the truck through my daily routine of commuting/school runs, hauling/Home Depot runs, and only one short highway jaunt to the airport (~30 miles total). I was astounded that this 239.57 inch (20 foot long!) truck, with this huge interior, 355+hp V8, and haul-everything capabilities was pulling in that kind of mileage. Having your cake and eating it, this is what it’s like. Comparatively, the Malibu does under 25 mpg on the same route – without furniture/dirt hauling, obviously. To a family man & home owner, it doesn’t seem worth saving a little on gas and getting a little better handling that a normal car provides. You really have to love driving through turns to give up on having 2x the motor, more than 2x the capabilities, and a transaction price not all that far off a nicely equipped midsize sedan once you take the gratuitous $10k+ off of a Silverado that your local dealer will likely give you ($40k MSRP on the one I drove). It’s the classic American equation: a lot of Mexican-made metal for the money. 

So give me a 150k transmission warranty and put a bag on it’s head and I’ll take one. Or put this motor and steering wheel into the handsome new F-150, and I’ll take that instead. 

This review was submitted by reader Nicholas Naylor (NN).

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Danger Girl Bids Farewell To The Old New Camaro http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/06/danger-girl-bids-farewell-old-new-camaro/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/06/danger-girl-bids-farewell-old-new-camaro/#comments Thu, 04 Jun 2015 13:00:48 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1080601 “You don’t have to meet me inside the airport,” I said, as Danger Girl led me by the hand to the baggage claim area of the Albuquerque Sunport. “I’m not a ten-year-old.” “I just didn’t want you to get lost.” “Lost?” My attention was briefly diverted by a curvaceous Latina in some sort of slutty-jumpsuit […]

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“You don’t have to meet me inside the airport,” I said, as Danger Girl led me by the hand to the baggage claim area of the Albuquerque Sunport. “I’m not a ten-year-old.”

“I just didn’t want you to get lost.”

“Lost?” My attention was briefly diverted by a curvaceous Latina in some sort of slutty-jumpsuit made from translucent fabric. “This is, like, the fourth-smallest commercial airport in North America.”

“Lost,” DG clarified, following my glance to the young lady who was now obliviously bending over to fix her sandal, “like that.”

“Oh.”


“I’m still angry about what happened last week, you know,” she said, tossing my luggage into the cargo compartment of her newest rental car. “I didn’t get credit for that rental.”

“So?”

“So, it was the rental that was going to put me over the top for my next free rental day.”

“Wait. You’re angry because you didn’t get credit for stealing a Challenger?”

“Because I would have gotten a free rental certificate.”

“But you didn’t pay for the Challenger!” I sputtered. “It was a free rental day all by itself.”

“Not the same,” DG declared, in a this conversation is over voice. “And this new rental car is broken. It’s really slow. I would never buy a Kia.”

“This,” I exhaled, already worn to a frazzle by seven days in which I drove over two thousand miles and flew over nine thousand, “is a Fiat 500L.

“It looks like a Kia,” DG proclaimed. “And it’s broken. See?” She floored the accelerator down Central Avenue. A homeless person leapt to safety from his perch on the curb.

“No, I think that’s about how fast they are supposed to be.”

“Well, it’s no wonder that you never see Kias out there. I call it the Poky Little Puppy. Did you read that book?”

“Recently?”

“No, as a kid, like everyone else. This is a Poky Little Fucking Puppy. I’m going to get another car from the rental agency.” Sure enough, the next morning she returned in a V6 Camaro.

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“How much did they charge you?” I asked.

“How much did they charge me?” The disbelief in her voice was palpable.

“Yes. How much did they charge you to change cars.”

“Nothing. It would have been twenty-five dollars for a Mustang. But the Camaros and Challengers are free. The airport lot is full of them. Because people in ABQ think that a cheap Camaro with tiny wheels is just the fucking pinnacle of human achievement out there, the best you can get. Hey, is that a Nova up there? I used to have a Nova. Let’s go look at it.” And she pinned the accelerator to its stop. Some sort of sizable lizard passed under the wheels with a sodden thump. “This one has balls. Definitely faster than a Tahoe. Hey, here we are. I really like that Nova. But what I want, I’ve decided, is not a Nova, but instead the Lexus RC-F. I cannot be impressed by that Nova, or this Camaro, after having ridden in the Lexus RC-F.”

“They are not,” I responded, “even remotely close to the same price.”

“But I can afford either, so it’s like they are the same price. And the Camaro that was $75,000 was super sucky.”

“You mean the Z/28.”

“Yes. It’s no Lexus RC-F.”

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“To me,” Danger Girl continued, “the Camaro has always been a girl’s car compared to the Mustang. And it doesn’t look like an old Camaro at all. The Challenger looks just like an old Challenger. And why does this have a screen in the dash there’s no backup camera? Is this the same car your friend Patrick, whom I met at that party at Alex Roy’s place, crashed?”

“He crashed the new one.”

“He couldn’t have been going very fast. This is slower than my old 1970 Monte Carlo. Uh-oh.” Ahead of, a white 2004-ish Escalade and a black 2004-ish Escalade were blocking both lanes of the street for what seemed like no reason.

“Should you honk or something?”

“We’ll get shot,” DG reminded me. “This is downtown Albuquerque.” In a moment, the two Escalades drove away and began playfully swerving at each other. “Both of those people,” my companion told me, “live in trailers. But they have Escalades.”

“Well, those are older Escalades.”

“It still makes me want to vote something that is more Republican than the Republicans.”

“Like, the take-Escalades-away-from-poor-people party?”

“Those people,” she replied with a trace of scorn, “could not get elected in New Mexico.”

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We stopped at a motorcycle shop where DG expressed interest in a red-white-and-blue Honda CBR500. The salesman told her, “That’s a lot of bike for a lady just starting out.”

“I had a Harley Softail when I was a teenager,” she snapped.

“Well then… let me show you the CB1000.” Afterwards, having purchased no motorcycles and having damaged only one on the showroom floor (I backed into the mirror of a new Honda CTX1300, causing the housing to snap off and fall) we cruised out to the far side of town and I thought long and hard about the virtues of this erstwhile New Camaro. Nominally speaking, the 2012-on V6es with their new integrated headers can be massaged via bolt-ons into a 13.9-second quarter mile, right there with the Ferrari Testarossa and the Porsche 964 and my Accord V6. In practice, however, these are kind of poky little puppies, emitting a horrible thrashing noise as the automatic takes its sweet time grabbing a lower gear and causing the entire interior to vibrate its brittle grey 1989-Cavalier plastic. The 2011-on Mustang was much nicer inside even if it lacked the sharply-creased exterior drama that still makes this low-rent rental look muscular and menacing despite the tall sidewalls and asthmatic exhaust.

Yet the execution of this fifth-generation car is depressingly Fiero-2M4-esque. To begin with, anything the Camaro can do, the Pontiac G8 could do better. It’s been a long time since coupes were lighter than their sedan relatives, and you can blame things like side-impact regulations for that, but the Camaro’s weight gain was always particularly egregious and it imbues even the big-motor variants with a sort of lackadaisical inertia at all times. The outgoing Mustang was no sports car but it sure as hell seemed like one when driven back to back with a Camaro.

If the insurance companies permit such a thing, a 2015 Camaro will be a great car for an adventurous teenager in 2025 or thereabouts. To a generation raised in the rear seat of Highlanders and Pilots, this will seem like quite the balls-out adventure-mobile, and for kids who grew up in the shadow of the monster Sequoia (the Toyota, not the tree), this coupe won’t seem terribly oversized.

New-car buyers will want to wait for the sixth-gen car, which should be like the ’89 Fiero GT to the current model’s ’84 Indy Pace Car. New GM might still be late to the party whenever possible (see HHR, Chevrolet and SRX, Cadillac) but it no longer terminates model lifespans right when the vehicle involved slouches into acceptability. My guess is the next ponycar conflict will closely resemble its Nineties predecessor: the Camaro will be faster and more capable, and the Mustang will be more usable and more popular.

On the way to the airport at oh-dark-thirty, DG was all smiles. “With this rental, I’ll finally get that free day that they cheated me out of before,” she assured me. “And I’ll have some free upgrades, too.”

“You could rent a Porsche,” I suggested, “or a Mercedes.”

“What I really want,” she replied, “is to rent a Lexus RC-F. But, if you’ve noticed, you will see that nobody ever has an RC-F to rent. Or any Lexus.” As we arrived at the return area, and the Camaro’s door closed with a sickly rattle, and the trunk popped up unevenly on the thick stamped hinges, DG’s brow briefly crinkled. “Why do you think that is?”

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Piston Slap: Panther Love Crashes a Monsoon Wedding? http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/05/piston-slap-panther-love-crashes-monsoon-wedding/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/05/piston-slap-panther-love-crashes-monsoon-wedding/#comments Wed, 13 May 2015 12:00:39 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1066258   TTAC Commentator thirty-three writes: Hi Sajeev, Not sure if this fits into your usual line of questions, but I’m looking for suggestions on renting a car for my upcoming wedding. My problem is that here in Vancouver, BC, I can’t find anyone who rents premium vehicles like a Benz or a Jaguar. Really expensive […]

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True Love = Panther Love (photo courtesy: detroitweddinglimo.com):

TTAC Commentator thirty-three writes:

Hi Sajeev,

Not sure if this fits into your usual line of questions, but I’m looking for suggestions on renting a car for my upcoming wedding. My problem is that here in Vancouver, BC, I can’t find anyone who rents premium vehicles like a Benz or a Jaguar.

Really expensive cars are available (e.g. Ferraris, Maseratis), but I just want a luxury sedan that will seat 5 comfortably. I only need it for one of the five days. Yes, it is an Indian wedding.

Thanks!

Sajeev answers:

Are you sure about that?

But here’s the real question: why can’t I be okay with renting a limo like every other wedding?

What makes your wedding so special?

Well for starters, it’s your wedding. And many Indian communities (especially in wealthy cities with large Indian populations) demand a big deal from their ceremonies. It’s an obligation to friends, family and the community. Special events, top drawer venues, open bars everywhere, international guests, 1000+ attendees for the reception, etc. So wanting a nice car, especially when making a show for family members that care about such things, isn’t really a big deal…right?

WRONG SON: I demand you rent a Lincoln Town Car limo.

How dare you consider true love sans riding in Panther Love?

Even more off-topic: I do not understand the cash sucking, humility negating one-upmanship present in many weddings, especially those of my people. I’m (admittedly) a horrible Indian when it comes to ceremonies, but I digress…your problem has two easy solutions:

  1. Buy a used “premium vehicle” and sell it in 2-3 months. That shows far more commitment to our ceremonies, too! Why, you could have one of those 2+ week ceremonies with the keys to a premium machine in your pocket!
  2. Embrace Panther Love and rent a Town Car Limo. Or an Escalade/Navigator limo if all else fails. Just don’t let me catch you in some abomination like an MKT: Vishnu (or whatever religion applies here) would like, totally, disapprove!

The perpetually single guy demands you rent a Limo, hopefully with white wheels. Off to you, Best and Brightest!

Send your queries to sajeev@thetruthaboutcars.com. Spare no details and ask for a speedy resolution if you’re in a hurry…but be realistic, and use your make/model specific forums instead of TTAC for more timely advice.

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Still Not Ready For The Rental Counter: EV Rentals Fail To Thrive http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/10/still-not-ready-for-the-rental-counter-ev-rentals-fail-to-thrive/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/10/still-not-ready-for-the-rental-counter-ev-rentals-fail-to-thrive/#comments Tue, 15 Oct 2013 19:00:01 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=624593 ‘ Tis better to own a Leaf or an S than to rent one, it seems. According to Enterprise Holdings Inc., known for driving around in cars wrapped in branded brown paper for some reason, customers who rent electric-only vehicles from their lot soon return their sustainable rides for a one with a sustainable range […]

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Tis better to own a Leaf or an S than to rent one, it seems. According to Enterprise Holdings Inc., known for driving around in cars wrapped in branded brown paper for some reason, customers who rent electric-only vehicles from their lot soon return their sustainable rides for a one with a sustainable range based on the number of (gasoline and diesel) fuel stops along the way.

In an interview with Bloomberg, Enterprise Head of Sustainability Lee Broughton note that while customers were “keen” to give electric power a go, range anxiety led many a renter to return the car for one where they know the infrastructure is there to meet. On average, a renter will spend almost two days with an electric-only car versus a week with a conventional road warrior. Currently, the St. Louis-based rental car business has 300 electric cars in their overall fleet, all Nissan Leafs. The figure is down 40 percent from the target of 500 of the cars set by Enterprise back in 2010.

Despite the overall lack of demand in this emerging rental market due to lack of infrastructure and larger-capacity batteries for extended range, competitor Hertz added the Tesla S to its Dream Cars lineup in September for their customer base in Los Angeles and San Francisco. The daily rate to feel like Elon Musk is $500; Enterprise offers the S in their Exotic Car Collection for $300 to $500 in the same locations, with three currently in the lineup available. The Leaf offered by Enterprise goes for $55 to $140 a day depending on location.

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The Truth About Honda’s Fleet Sales http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/08/the-truth-about-hondas-fleet-sales/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/08/the-truth-about-hondas-fleet-sales/#comments Sun, 25 Aug 2013 13:00:32 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=500813 TTAC has a long tradition of digging deep into manufacturer sales data, frequently focusing on retail versus fleet sales. It’s become commonly accepted that high fleet percentages are a sign of weakness in product lines, at least as far as retail consumer preference goes. The traditionally low fleet percentages of Japanese brands have been singled […]

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TTAC has a long tradition of digging deep into manufacturer sales data, frequently focusing on retail versus fleet sales. It’s become commonly accepted that high fleet percentages are a sign of weakness in product lines, at least as far as retail consumer preference goes. The traditionally low fleet percentages of Japanese brands have been singled out as evidence of those companies’ ability to attract crucial retail dollars, or at least their superiority in matching production to demand. And they were right. For many years, Toyota and Honda in particular could count on strong retail sales of premium-priced products in a way that the Big 3 couldn’t. Changing trends in the American vehicle market are undermining this model, though.

When I wrote about Toyota’s rising vehicle stockpiles, heightened fleet sales, deep discounts, and the resulting collapse of its pricing model, there was plenty of heated discussion. Although I was tarred and feathered by some as a Toyota hater and Detroit homer, they mostly missed the point: it’s no longer valid to think of Toyota as an “exceptional” car company from a business perspective, regardless of your personal opinions about the relative merits of their products. As the Camry debacle shows, the market is no longer willing to reward Toyota simply for the sake of being Toyota. For the sake of fairness, it’s time to ask the same set of questions about the company whose business strategy most nearly matches Toyota’s: archrival Honda. The evidence suggests there are some rather unpleasant fleet skeletons hiding in Honda’s closet, ones that don’t match the traditional image of the company as the retail leader.

On the surface, things look fine. Honda’s incentive spending on the marquee Civic and Accord is significantly lower than rivals. And its much-vaunted strategy of ignoring the fleet market and concentrating on retail sales is usually interpreted as a sign that Honda leads on per-unit profitability and “real” market share. Automotive News puts the Accord at around 1% fleet mix, well behind its rivals. But what if Honda’s position relative to the fleet market isn’t as strong as previously believed?

“Honda is the retail leader” has long been a mantra for that company’s boosters, one that is repeated by a fair number of autojournos. It’s a well-known fact that Honda has no corporate fleet sales department, in contrast to every other mass-market auto company in America. Even so, Honda products have a habit still show up in a variety of fleets. The vehicle-sales sites of several rental car companies have plenty of Hondas for sale. As of this writing, Enterprise Car Sales lists 200 former rental Hondas for purchase. The majority of these are Accords, with Civics not too far behind, and models from the entire rest of the range sprinkled in. For those feeling like something a little fancier, 22 Acuras are also available. Hertz also has hundreds of Hondas available, mostly 2012 Civics and a few Accords. Avis has no Honda products listed; nor does Budget.

It’s also worth noting that there are far fewer Hondas available for sale than, say, Chevrolets, Chryslers, or Fords. However, those makes include substantial numbers of trucks and commercial vans that Honda doesn’t offer. Honda has openly partnered with Zipcar to put hybrids in its fleet. Unfortunately, major fleet vehicle remarketing company Manheim doesn’t provide data on sales to anyone but licensed auto dealers, so I wasn’t able to scan their listed inventory for Hondas. However, salvage-auction company IAAI does provide listings of insurance-totaled Hondas, albeit ones that are difficult to sort and frequently incomplete. Even so, a casual scan through the listings reveals a surprising number of totaled-out Accords and Civics that had titles held by rental car companies or otherwise appear to have been former rentals. So clearly, a decent number of Honda products are winding up in America’s rental fleets. Many of the B&B have offered anecdotes about rental Hondas, but it’s nice to have a few solid numbers to go by. Maybe a reader with Manheim access could help flesh out the data.

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Besides rentals, governments are another important consumer of fleet cars. Honda’s CNG Civic fleet program is well-known, although these make up a tiny fraction of overall Civic sales. Even so, Honda has been enthusiastic about trying to expand this program, with Honda alternative fuel vehicle manager Eric Rosenberg previously quoted as saying “We’re looking forward to much healthier fleet sales as the economy makes that positive turn.” Civic Hybrids have made their way into government and corporate fleets as well, in far larger quantities. New York State has invested significantly in updating its fleet with hybrids, purchasing large quantities of Civics and the former Accord Hybrid from 2007 onwards.

As municipalities have looked to green their fleets, they’ve turned to Honda hybrids as well. A quick search of industry site Government Fleet turns up hundreds of examples of municipalities and state and local governments acquiring Honda hybrids. Toyota and Ford are also heavily represented in these hybrid fleets, but Honda still makes a strong showing. There’s less evidence that regular-drivetrain Hondas make it into government fleets in any great quantity, although I have personally seen them used by some universities as service vehicles. Many government fleet operators are restricted in their purchases by “Buy American” laws that can exclude foreign-make vehicles, even if they are American-assembled.

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Corporate fleet sales are always difficult to estimate, but anyone who’s lived in Central Ohio as long as I have can tell you that Honda products are popular choices for local businesses. The reliability and resale records of the Accord, Civic, and Odyssey no doubt attracts many operators looking to maximize their ROI. And although Honda has no corporate-level program for direct fleet sales, there are plenty Honda dealers who operate their own. Lindsay Honda of Columbus  explains that “With 14 acres of more than 700 Honda’s in inventory, Lindsay Honda can manage your order and pricing cost effectively, thus passing the savings to you.” Similarly, Don Carlton Honda of Tulsa promises customers “the benefit and tremendous value of our Honda Fleet Pricing while making the process of buying a new Honda vehicle simple and stress-free,” with a website specifically dedicated to facilitating fleet purchases.

In fact, it’s difficult to find a high-volume Honda dealer that doesn’t operate some kind of fleet program. And virtually all of these programs tout “preferred fleet pricing” and volume discounts for buyers, a seeming contradiction to Honda’s notorious stinginess with incentives. If you’re looking to buy ten Hondas for your fleet, there’s no shortage of dealers willing to cut you a discount, and take care of your service needs afterwards. But these dealers seem to be ignored or downplayed by Honda corporate, which steadfastly maintains that fleet sales are a vanishing percentage of Honda’s business. A press release from Honda on July 2 about rising sales crowed that “These solid results further showcase Honda’s pure, market-driven momentum achieved by customers choosing Honda vehicles one at a time rather than relying on fleet sales to drive volume.” The mantra about retail sales is clearly a big part of Honda’s marketing schtick. It seems that nobody has thought to ask the dealer body what they think about becoming Honda’s default fleet sales program, a role they may not appreciate. I can’t help but be reminded of an earlier episode in Honda’s corporate history where dealers took it on the chin.

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Steve Lynch’s Arrogance and Accords is the definitive history of the early-90’s Honda management scandal. Lynch, a Honda insider, describes in detail a culture of malfeasance amongst American Honda executives that led to incredible acts of extortion against the Honda dealer body. Buoyed by the explosive growth of Honda in the go-go 1980’s, many prospective dealers were willing to enter into silent partnerships, kickback schemes, and other fraudulent behavior to secure valuable Honda franchises and a steady supply of cars from the corruption-riddled allocation system. When the market for new Hondas declined in the early 90’s (and dealers could no longer sell the cars for thousands of dollars above sticker), the whole scheme unraveled. Overproduction and flopped model introductions meant that cars sat on lots. A frustrated and abused dealer body finally ratted out the executives wholesale, leading to their firing and eventual federal prosecution after a failed cover-up attempt. But the dealer body didn’t get much out of the prosecutions; many of them lost millions of dollars, and others alleged that their businesses were ruined because they refused to “play the game” with Honda execs.

Obviously, much has changed since then; I’m not accusing Honda or its executives of engaging in criminal malfeasance. However, I do believe it is worth noting that Honda has a history of treating dealers as if they were replaceable; because for many years, they were. Lynch described a corporate culture that saw dealers as a nuisance and an inconvenience, a culture he alleges was facilitated by averted eyes in Tokyo. Now that the market for Honda products has matured, and the dealer body has been stabilized, perhaps it’s worth questioning whether making dealers solely responsible for the disposal of excess stock is a healthy policy. It’s also worth noting that many of the ex-rentals described above were 2012 Civics and Accords. Production of both of these models was stopped by the 2011 Asian tsunami, and for a long time Civics especially were thin on the ground at dealers. Yet despite these shortages, many newly-redesigned Civics still wound up in rental fleets, supposedly the dumping ground of last resort for unwanted models.

Auto industry watchers know that the redesigned Civic was harshly reviewed, prompting a quick 2013 refresh in response to criticism. Would it be unreasonable to suggest that dealers pushed many 2012s into fleets, knowing they would be a difficult sell if the much-improved version was right around the corner? The 2012 Accord as fleet car is easier to understand- a model at the end of its run is always a hard sell, and a few fleet sales at rock-bottom prices would have relieved the pressure on dealers to move the metal. But in both of these cases, the dealers were acting alone, with few corporate incentives to help cushion the blow.  The marketing department’s retail mantra remains untainted, and the cars move off the lots- but the dealers take the hit. The production recovery after the tsunami is unquestionable, but the sales recovery deserves an asterisk.

Honda Element Car Wraps-resized-600

The strategy of ignoring or underreporting fleet sales enables Honda to claim that its cars are somehow above and beyond the dynamics that the rest of the market faces. Every manufacturer will eventually face problems of excess inventory caused by a botched model launch or overproduction, no matter how sainted said company might be. It’s getting harder and harder for Honda to maintain this self-image after a series of uncompetitive new offerings has left dealers with large numbers of hard-to-move products. Civics are piling up on dealer lots as consumers gravitate towards the compact offerings of other manufacturers.

Toyota, at least, has acknowledged its difficulties with the Camry and has moved to help out its dealer network with a combination of incentive spending and diverting excess production to fleets. Even if it costs Toyota some credibility, it’s a better strategy than simply throwing cars at dealers and hoping a miracle happens. And it’s not as if fleet sales are an inherent evil; they’re a reality of doing business in the United States, one that no mass-market auto maker can evade forever. It’s impossible to put a solid number on the amount of Hondas currently being pushed to fleet by dealers. Even so, in the face of mounting evidence, the 1-2% figure most commonly put forth by Honda is almost surely too low. Given the state of flux and increasingly competitive nature of the American car market, industry watchers and the press corps need to regard that percentage with skepticism.
 

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Rent Out Your Car Via Onstar http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2011/10/rent-out-your-car-via-onstar/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2011/10/rent-out-your-car-via-onstar/#comments Wed, 05 Oct 2011 23:21:10 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=413721 Onstar may have been pressured by privacy activists into dropping changes to its terms of service, but the telematics service is still betting that people want to be more connected than ever. So much so that it’s going offer a service allowing you to rent your car out to strangers. A GM press release explains […]

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Onstar may have been pressured by privacy activists into dropping changes to its terms of service, but the telematics service is still betting that people want to be more connected than ever. So much so that it’s going offer a service allowing you to rent your car out to strangers.

A GM press release explains

RelayRides allows vehicle owners to choose to rent out their idle vehicles, with the owner controlling the rates and availability of the car. RelayRides provides an online marketplace and a $1 million insurance policy to make the transaction safe and convenient.

Through innovative technology integration, RelayRides will leverage OnStar to allow RelayRides borrowers to unlock GM cars with their mobile phones. For vehicles that are not OnStar enabled, RelayRides must install a small device in the car to provide convenient access to borrowers. The integration makes all eligible OnStar vehicles immediately “RelayRides ready” without having to install additional hardware…

RelayRides will leverage OnStar technology through a mobile application to allow customers to check for available vehicles, make a online reservation online as well as check future reservations, locate their reserved vehicle via GPS and lock and unlock the vehicle, all through their smart phone.

And GM isn’t just mating its Onstar technology to the “peer-to-peer” car sharing program (which is still only available in San Francisco and Boston), its VC arm GM Ventures “is in advanced discussions with RelayRides about an investment in the company as part of GM’s overall commitment to addressing urban mobility issues.” Car sharing programs have become a big trend in the automotive industry, with Daimler, BMW, Toyota and others jumping on the bandwagon in some form or other. But as might be expected from the company that brought us the Volt, rather than surf the trend, GM is going one step further by leading the industry into the peer-to-peer rental space. And as with all of these investments, it’s tough to see how this makes sense in the long term. In the short term though, at least this might “get butts into seats,” something GM execs say is the key to overcoming what they call “outdated perceptions” of GM products.

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Are You Ready For: Peer-To-Peer Car Rentals? http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2011/06/are-you-ready-for-peer-to-peer-car-rentals/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2011/06/are-you-ready-for-peer-to-peer-car-rentals/#comments Wed, 08 Jun 2011 15:41:35 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=397794 With car sharing on the rise, my home state of Oregon is moving towards changing insurance rules to allow private “peer to peer” rentals by auto owners. The Oregonian reports that HB 3149 is headed for the Governor’s desk, having been approved by the state House and Senate. Sponsor Rep Ben Cannon explains Most insurance […]

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With car sharing on the rise, my home state of Oregon is moving towards changing insurance rules to allow private “peer to peer” rentals by auto owners. The Oregonian reports that HB 3149 is headed for the Governor’s desk, having been approved by the state House and Senate. Sponsor Rep Ben Cannon explains

Most insurance policies prohibit people from using their cars for commercial purposes. This bill says someone can participate in car sharing without having to worry that their insurance will be canceled.

California is the only other state to have passed such legislation, and already Facebook-based peer-to-peer car rental firms like Getaround have popped up to fill the demand. With average car ownership costs reaching $8,000 per year according to the AAA, Cannon argues that research showing that cars sit parked for 90% of their lives proves the need for more car-sharing flexibility. And established car-sharing firms like Zipcar, which operate their own fleets don’t feel threatened by the bill, as they are not expanding beyond urban cores and as Zipcar’s CEO puts it, peer-to-peer rentals validate the car-sharing model. But would you rent your car to a stranger?

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Rental Car Industry Calls For Recall Of The Recall System http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2011/04/rental-car-industry-calls-for-recall-of-the-recall-system/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2011/04/rental-car-industry-calls-for-recall-of-the-recall-system/#comments Tue, 05 Apr 2011 18:33:19 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=390080 We’ve long struggled with finding the right balance of recall coverage here at TTAC, as the sheer volume of them makes it extremely difficult to separate the life-saving wheat from the irrelevant chaff. Now, it seems the rental car industry is tired of struggling with the same challenge and is lobbying the government for reform […]

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We’ve long struggled with finding the right balance of recall coverage here at TTAC, as the sheer volume of them makes it extremely difficult to separate the life-saving wheat from the irrelevant chaff. Now, it seems the rental car industry is tired of struggling with the same challenge and is lobbying the government for reform of the recall system. Bob Barton of the American Car Rental Association explains the problem to the NYT

We can’t determine the significance of a recall and whether a vehicle is no longer safe to operate or whether it can continue to operate and then should simply be brought in for service at some point in time. We simply want the manufacturers to instruct us when a vehicle needs to be grounded and we will absolutely comply.

Fair enough. Recalls are carried out for plenty of non-safety-critical problems. But where do you draw that line? And, more importantly, does the rental industry enjoy enough of a reputation for safety consciousness to assure customers that their calls for reform won’t result in any increased danger?

It turns out that these two questions are actually closely related. Despite its framing of this lobbying issue as a matter of practical reform, the rental car industry is actually responding to a NHTSA investigation that recently found

30 days after a recall — 10 to 30 percent of vehicles sold to rental car companies had been repaired.

By 90 days, it had improved to about 30 percent and within a year, the number had improved to 50 percent or higher…

Rental car companies are not legally required to complete recalls before they rent the cars to customers.

This finding, that rental firms aren’t legally compelled to rent fully recall-compliant vehicles and that recalls take months to receive fixes, raises serious questions about the industry’s ability to guarantee the safety of their vehicles. Given the lack of legal pressure to comply with any recall, the NYT asked Barton how rental firms respond to recalls in the status quo.

Asked how recalls are handled now, Mr. Barton said: “If we get a notice that says the vehicle needs to be grounded, every company will set their own policy. But as a general rule I would suggest everybody would ground that vehicle.”

Asked about recalls for which the automaker does not say the vehicle should be parked until fixed?

“Every company will set their own policy, but ultimately that repair will get done, but maybe not immediately,” he said.

Not the most reassuring responses ever, to be sure. And given NHTSA’s investigation into the timeliness of rental fleets’ recal repairs, it seems obvious that this lobbying effort is a way to keep the industry operating without increased repair costs should NHTSA (or Congress) demand timely compliance with recalls. But without a coherent industry position, it’s hard to put its lobby arm in the driver’s seat of reforms to the nation’s entire recall system. As a result, a number of consumer groups have already voiced opposition to the ACRA’s initiative.

On the other hand, the ACRA insists that not even taxi or shuttle bus fleets are able to comply with the sheer volume of recalls, so a measure requiring the same level of recall compliance as new car dealers could have impacts beyond the rental car industry which has already attracted scrutiny. If NHTSA wants to take on the challenge and risk of creating a graded recall system, it should do so as a way to improve the communication of defects rather than a way to enable businesses who cut costs on safety. But if that happens and deaths from rental car and taxi malfunctions increases, there will be no evil lobbyists to scapegoat. NHTSA will have abdicated its mandate. Reforming the recall system is a big step and it should be done extremely carefully.

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BMW Seeks A Million New… Rentals? http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2011/03/bmw-seeks-a-million-new-rentals/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2011/03/bmw-seeks-a-million-new-rentals/#comments Tue, 22 Mar 2011 21:40:02 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=388319 Think BMW sells a lot of cars in the US? The German automaker may have registered nearly 20,000 “sales” in the US last month, but according to the analysts at Polk, over 50 percent of its “sales” in 2010 were actually leases. No wonder BMW’s best-seller, the Dreier (3 Series), occupies a nearly unique position […]

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Think BMW sells a lot of cars in the US? The German automaker may have registered nearly 20,000 “sales” in the US last month, but according to the analysts at Polk, over 50 percent of its “sales” in 2010 were actually leases. No wonder BMW’s best-seller, the Dreier (3 Series), occupies a nearly unique position on the price-volume frontier. And apparently BMW will continue to look to non-sales for future sales growth, as Automotive News [sub] reports the firm has launched a new car-sharing joint venture in Europe aimed at bringing in a million new customers by 2020. The pitch: sleek new Bavarian metal, as well as the ability to pick up and drop off vehicles anywhere, thanks to smartphone vehicle tracking. But the biggest pitch, say BMW sources, is to people who would never buy a new BMW… or even lease one. And they’re not just talking about poor folks either…

According to BMW sales and marketing chief Ian Robertson, the joint venture with German car rental giant Sixt isn’t so much about gaining new sales but about reaching urban consumers who are no longer choosing to own an automobile. In short, we’re looking at the endgame for automakers in mature markets: whereas leases are a good way to bring more buyers into the luxury brand they desire, this is about reaching well-off customers who simply are no longer interested in owning cars for a number of financial, environmental, and congestion-related reasons. BMW now joins Peugeot and Daimler in offering car-sharing programs in Europe, as consultants Frost & Sullivan project that by 2016, some 5.5 million Europeans and 4.4 million North Americans will use car sharing programs. At least in the dense urban cities of the developed world, car ownership is starting to sound so last century…

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Who Ruled The Rental Fleets In 2010? http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2011/01/who-ruled-the-rental-fleets-in-2010/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2011/01/who-ruled-the-rental-fleets-in-2010/#comments Thu, 20 Jan 2011 21:09:19 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=381314 One of the questions that came up in yesterday’s post, The Truth About The Ten Best-Selling Sedans Of 2010, was how to interpret a high percentage of fleet sales. After all, “fleet sales” could describe a huge variety of sales to diverse buyers at widely varying price (and profit) points. Rental fleet sales are widely […]

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One of the questions that came up in yesterday’s post, The Truth About The Ten Best-Selling Sedans Of 2010, was how to interpret a high percentage of fleet sales. After all, “fleet sales” could describe a huge variety of sales to diverse buyers at widely varying price (and profit) points. Rental fleet sales are widely seen as being far worse than other types of sales, which is why the resale value trackers at Automotive Lease Guide keep such a close eye on what they call “Rental Fleet Penetration.” In its latest newsletter, ALG notes

ALG tracks several key metrics that impact residual values and brand health. Of these metrics, rental fleet penetration (RFP), which ALG measures as the total number of vehicles sold into rental fleet channels divided by total sales, has been found to have an impact on both residual performance and perception of quality… As a general rule, ALG recommends RFP levels below 10% for Mainstream brands and <5% for Luxury brands to avoid any negative impact from rental fleet sales on residual performance.

The Chrysler brand, which has had a history of high rental fleet levels in the past several years, showed the highest increase in RFP to ~49% in 2010YTD compared to ~19% in 2009YTD. Dodge and Jeep, also operating under the Chrysler umbrella, showed high YOY increases in RFP with levels at 32% and 18% for 2010YTD, respectively. Though industry retail sales showed improvement in 2010YTD, the Chrysler, Dodge and Jeep brands all suffered declines in retail sales compared to 2009YTD. While the decline in sales has a positive impact on residual values due to the drop in used supply, the increase in rental fleet penetration will negate much of the used supply impact on residual values due to the decline in perceived quality and residual performance relative to the competitors.

Chevrolet also displayed high increases in RFP levels to ~26% for 2010YTD compared to ~13% in 2009YTD. Retail sales for the Chevrolet brand also increased, resulting in increased used supply for the brand which would negatively impact residual performance, holding all else constant. Mercury rounded out the mainstream brands that experienced the largest increases in RFP levels.

But that’s hardly the whole story…

ALG has found that rental fleet sales have an even more detrimental effect on residual values and perceived quality for luxury brands compared to mainstream brands. Cadillac showed the highest YOY increase in RFP from ~9% in 2009YTD to ~17% for 2010YTD. Though rental fleet sales showed a significant increase compared to the Luxury brand average, Cadillac has shown improvements in other metrics. Retail sales grew by 34% in 2010 compared to 2009 (July YTD), while incentives decreased. While this is a positive story for Cadillac, the increase in rental fleet penetration will place the brand at a disadvantage compared to other luxury brands that have kept rental fleet below the 5% mark.

The other brands in the luxury list all had fairly small changes to RFP levels and averaged <5% for both 2009 and 2010YTD. Both the mainstream and luxury domestic brands have shown higher rental fleet trends versus their import counterparts.

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Are Rental Cars Receiving Recall Repairs? http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2010/11/are-rental-cars-receiving-recall-repairs/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2010/11/are-rental-cars-receiving-recall-repairs/#comments Mon, 22 Nov 2010 23:21:20 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=374021 NHTSA Investigation Action Number AQ10001, opened November 18, 2010 notes: The agency, particularly in recent months, has been informed of incidents involving allegations of personal injury and death claimed to have been caused by safety defects and failures to conform to minimum Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards (FMVSS) on rental car vehicles for which a […]

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NHTSA Investigation Action Number AQ10001, opened November 18, 2010 notes:

The agency, particularly in recent months, has been informed of incidents involving allegations of personal injury and death claimed to have been caused by safety defects and failures to conform to minimum Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards (FMVSS) on rental car vehicles for which a safety recall to remedy the safety defect or noncompliance had allegedly not been performed prior to the rental car company’s lease of the vehicle. NHTSA understands that there is presently a petition before the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) seeking to prohibit at least one rental car company from renting vehicles on which safety recall campaign remedies remain outstanding. The purpose of this audit query (AQ) is to investigate recall remedy completion by rental car companies on the above-listed safety recall campaigns. These campaigns were chosen due to their inclusion of vehicles used in the rental market. This information is expected to provide the agency an indication of how completely and how quickly rental car fleets, in general or individually, perform necessary recall-related repairs or other remedies on the vehicles owned and then leased for use on the roadways.

But rental companies wouldn’t risk the safety of their customers for a buck would they? The Enterprise/Alamo/National syndicate tells Bloomberg it grounds cars upon receiving recalls… Hertz and Avis have yet to chime in. The weirdest part of it all: only vehicles made by GM, Ford and Chrysler are being investigated. Why are the Accents and Rios receiving recall repairs while Avengers and Malibus are left to be investigated for “failures to conform to minimum Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards”? Whiskey Tango Foxtrot? A list of vehicles under investigation can be found below the fold.

Model/Build Years:
BUICK / ENCLAVE 2009
CHEVROLET / COBALT 2009
CHEVROLET / MALIBU 2009
CHEVROLET / TRAVERSE 2009
CHRYSLER / PACIFICA 2005-2006
CHRYSLER / SEBRING 2007-2008
CHRYSLER / TOWN AND COUNTRY 2005-2006
DODGE / AVENGER 2007-2008
DODGE / CARAVAN 2005-2006
DODGE / DURANGO 2005-2006
DODGE / GRAND CARAVAN 2005-2006
DODGE / NITRO 2007
FORD / ESCAPE 2001-2005
FORD / EXPLORER 2010
FORD / EXPLORER SPORT TRAC 2010
FORD / FOCUS 2000-2005
FORD / FUSION 2010
FORD / MUSTANG 2005-2008
GMC / ACADIA 2009
JEEP / COMMANDER 2006-2007
JEEP / GRAND CHEROKEE 2006-2007
JEEP / LIBERTY 2006-2007
JEEP / WRANGLER 2007
MERCURY / MILAN 2010
MERCURY / MOUNTAINEER 2010
PONTIAC / G5 2009
PONTIAC / G6 2009
PONTIAC / VIBE 2009-2010
SATURN / AURA 2009

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With Fleet Sales Booming,Chrysler Vows To Limit Sales To Rental Firms http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2010/04/with-fleet-sales-boomingchrysler-vows-to-limit-sales-to-rental-firms/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2010/04/with-fleet-sales-boomingchrysler-vows-to-limit-sales-to-rental-firms/#comments Tue, 27 Apr 2010 22:49:22 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=354471 Fleet sales were up 47 percent in the first quarter of this year, driving sales at a number of automakers. Ford, in particular, is targeting fleet sales unapologetically by touting a recovery in resale values for the Blue Oval Brand. Ford’s Mark Fields tells the Freep: We love fleets at Ford…Ford remains focused on our […]

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Fleet sales were up 47 percent in the first quarter of this year, driving sales at a number of automakers. Ford, in particular, is targeting fleet sales unapologetically by touting a recovery in resale values for the Blue Oval Brand. Ford’s Mark Fields tells the Freep:

We love fleets at Ford…Ford remains focused on our disciplined approach to daily rental, making sure we help keep growing residual values

At Chrysler, which suffers from some of the lowest resale values in the business thanks in part to a longtime addiction to fleet sales, the response seems a bit more… conflicted.

Chrysler’s Peter Grady tells Automotive News [sub] that Auburn Hills is serious to getting fleet business to 25 percent of its sales mix, and that it will cap sales to rental fleets. He explains:

Our growth will come from large commercial and government markets

Of course he doesn’t mention that 58 percent of Chrysler’s February sales went to fleets (though AN [sub] does), nor does he specify details about the rental sales cap. But some kind of rental fleet sales reduction shouldn’t be too hard. Chrysler’s previous rental-fleet dumping grounds, Dollar-Thrifty, has been bought by Hertz, drying up the most loyal renter of Mopars. And the sale is no coincidence: according to Forbes, Dollar-Thrifty was vulnerable to takeover at least in part because of its exposure to Chrysler, and its plummeting resale values. Besides, as Automotive News [sub] has reported, Dollar-Thrifty dumped Chrysler before Chrysler dumped it. But then, Chrysler has been here before with the whole “capping fleet sales thing.” It hasn’t worked yet.

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Rentin’ The Blues: First Place: 2010 Lincoln Town Car Signature Limited http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2010/04/rentin-the-blues-first-place-2010-lincoln-town-car-signature-limited/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2010/04/rentin-the-blues-first-place-2010-lincoln-town-car-signature-limited/#comments Wed, 14 Apr 2010 14:48:21 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=352451 I’m going down to Memphis Where they really playin’ the blues I’m going down on Beale Street And have a good time like I choose “Thank you for coming to Budget. I have you booked for a Kia Optima.” “The hell you do.” “That is a full-size car as you requested.” “Well, in that case, […]

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I’m going down to Memphis

Where they really playin’ the blues

I’m going down on Beale Street

And have a good time like I choose

“Thank you for coming to Budget. I have you booked for a Kia Optima.”

“The hell you do.”

“That is a full-size car as you requested.”

“Well, in that case, I want something that is not a full-size car.” And that is how I came to be rolling through the proverbial Dirty South in a 2100-mile, 2010-model-year Town Car. Yes, they still make ‘em. The current lineup has been rationalized to Signature Limited (117-inch wheelbase) and Signature L (123-inch). There’s absolutely no reason of which I can think to take the SWB car, but that’s what the rental fleets have, and it’s what you can easily buy off-lease. I’ve found plenty of essentially identical two-year-old SigLims for under $20K, so this car is not only a direct used-price competitor for the 2009 Sable I reviewed previously, it’s also in the same ballpark as… a Kia Optima.

Automotive experts of the Internet, when they are not telling people that a 2009 Sable is virtually the same car as an old Volvo S80, like to tell people that a 2010 Town Car is virtually the same car as a 1979 Lincoln Continental sedan. This is true in the same sense that a 2000 Honda Civic Si is the same car as a 1988 Civic. In both cases, there were major dimensional and engineering changes across multiple generations of the same basic design. I am the former owner of a 1980 Mercury Marquis Brougham Coupe and I can state with authority that the current Town Car is nothing like that car in terms of driving dynamics.

This does not mean that recent Crown Victoria owners won’t be perfectly at home. Ford has steadily rationalized the differences between the Panther cars over time and this 2010 car is the most egregious example of that. Town Car aficionados (yes, they exist) will tell you to avoid Canadian-built TCs in favor of the Wixom, MI-assembled 2008 and earlier model years. They may have a point. The plastics and leather are okay, but they are nothing like what you would find in an Audi. Come to think of it, they aren’t close to what you would find in a new MKS.

Also not up to MKS spec: the sound system. You can get SYNC in a fifteen-grand Focus but not in a Town Car, and for the first time in my recent experience, the stereo simply isn’t loud enough. There is no navigation screen, no aux plug, no USB support, no nothing. The center console features dual-zone climate control and that’s more or less it.

Once in motion, the Town Car has a surprising flaw: it’s a wanderer on the highway, requiring constant correction and displaying quite a bit of sensitivity to side winds. My displayed mileage for the trip was 22.7 over the course of 2,635 miles, including a day in New York and one cruising around Memphis. There’s more than adequate power and the four-speed transmission rarely feels as if it needs additional ratios.

A snowstorm outside New York revealed why a whole generation of drivers abandoned big RWD cars: it was an absolute nightmare on a high-crowned, icy two-lane, requiring frequent, violent corrections at the helm to keep pace with the rest of the traffic. When the road turned dry, it was time to take advantage of the anonymity afforded a black Lincoln on I-95, pushing into the triple digits and pushing traffic out of the left lane with a double-blink of the brights and a bullying chrome grill. This is no sports car but it has some fundamental balance to it at speed. Too bad it has no brakes.

In traffic anywhere, the Lincoln is a fearsome weapon. It’s big, it’s official-looking, and it brake-torques from the lights like a Fox Mustang. The steering is light but accurate enough to place the car inches from a falafel vendor or inebriated pedestrian. Potholes don’t faze it. And Ford’s never bothered to put anything like advanced engine electronics in it, so you can wrap the seatbelt tight and left-foot-brake all day, standing the car on its nose on corner entry and then spinning the inside rear wheel on the exit.

If I came to admire the Town Car — and I did — my passengers admired it from the beginning, rating it above not only the Sable but vehicles like the Audi A6. Only my Phaetons have received higher ride-along reviews.

You’ll miss this car when it’s gone. It’s old, it’s flawed, it’s imperfect. Still, it’s utterly authentic, and when the last one rolls off the line we will never see its like again. If you haven’t driven one, it’s worth doing, and it’s as close as your local Budget Rent-a-Car. Unless, that is, you prefer a Kia Optima.

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Rentin’ The Blues: Second Place: 2009 Mercury Sable Premier http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2010/04/rentin%e2%80%99-the-blues-second-place-2009-mercury-sable-premier/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2010/04/rentin%e2%80%99-the-blues-second-place-2009-mercury-sable-premier/#comments Mon, 12 Apr 2010 18:06:24 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=352211 I was born in the city A city with no shame And when I play guitar They all know my name Well, as fate would have it, they only really know my name at the local restaurant where I play lunch gigs on my Gibson CS-336. I don’t consider myself a blues man, but I […]

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I was born in the city

A city with no shame

And when I play guitar

They all know my name

Well, as fate would have it, they only really know my name at the local restaurant where I play lunch gigs on my Gibson CS-336. I don’t consider myself a blues man, but I will go to see the blues played when I have a chance. My plan for last week was simple: drive from Columbus, Ohio to New York City to see Robert Cray perform, and then to head down Memphis way to catch the various acts on Beale Street. Tie in an additional trip to the New York Auto Show afterwards, and we’re talking 4,100 miles and plenty of dicey parking. Might as well rent some cars and do an old-school TTAC rental review or two.

It’s been nearly a year since the last Sable rolled off the assembly line. It was a stopgap car, an attempt to rectify the most serious failings of the showroom-cobweb-holder Mercury Montego and mark time until a fully revised 2010 model could debut along the MKS and low-roof Taurus. Ford’s decision to take Mercury in the proverbial “different direction” doomed the Sable to rental-car hell and astonishingly low resale value. It’s possible to pick up a fully-loaded, low-miles Sable Premier for well south of twenty grand.

As I rolled along I-80 in Pennsylvania, the cruise control set to 82 miles per hour and the average-economy readout hovering at 27.9mpg, I had to admit that such a Sable purchase would represent a pretty decent value. It’s a nearly effortless freeway car, tracking straight and true, surprisingly indifferent to sidewinds. The seating position is seemingly about half a foot above what one would have in, say, an Audi A4, and visibility is good as well.

The Montego had a gutless three-liter Duratec and a rubber-band CVT, which probably did a lot to kill showroom excitement about what otherwise would have been seen as a decent 9/8ths-scale American knockoff of the B5 VW Passat. (Is it really a knockoff when you hire the same designer to do the same thing? Somebody should ask Gerald Genta.) This 3.5L/six-speed combination is manifestly better. It’s never strong or impressive, but it’s fast enough for modern American traffic, even in the cut-and-thrust of Manhattan’s Garment District. Hard launches spin the front wheels and bring the hammer of a very strict TCS down on the engine almost immediately. It’s not an enthusiast’s car in the traditional sense, or in any other sense.

Ford’s SYNC system was included on the car I drove, and as usual it’s just about the best way to control an iPod and Bluetooth phone together. The sound system was decent enough but lacking any sense of “dynamic attack”, “stage presence”, or any of the stuff you’d get in one of a name-brand luxury-sedan installation. A full navigation screen is an optional extra and one you’d be unlikely to find in an ex-rental.

I wasn’t more than a few hours away from Ohio when my traveling partner announced her complete lack of satisfaction with the Sable’s flat-bottomed leather seats. “They need to be good like the ones in your green car,” was the succinct evaluation. She chose instead to take a nap stretched out across the three-person back seat, wrapped up in a blanket and comforted by the Sable’s better-than-Camcord-class freeway ride. Four hundred miles later, my back was sore. These are not good seats; the ones you would get in an MKS or 2010 Taurus are miles ahead.

I believe the Autowriters’ Code of Conduct calls for me to mention the Volvo S80 at this point, along with something about ancient platforms. Truth be told, I’ve driven plenty of miles in a first-gen S80 and it’s a very different car. Both the Volvo and the Sable have that slight feeling of front-end crashiness and brittle response one gets from heavy transverse-engine platforms, but other than that it really doesn’t feel much like an S80.

It’s been a while since I resisted the temptation to run a car into the triple digits, even briefly. The Sable never even saw 90mph. It’s not an inspiring vehicle. It’s safe (allegedly), quiet, comfortable in some ways, well-equipped, spacious, and inoffensive-looking. I cannot see why anyone would pick the bloated, low-content Camry over this car, if the money is equal. Problem is, the money wasn’t equal. Ford wanted a lot of cash for the Sable.

Luckily, the used market has corrected that disparity. I turned around after Mr. Cray finished his two-hour set at B.B. King’s and drove back to Ohio. Twelve hundred miles in a day, about 27.5 mpg including time in the city. Not bad, but very far from being memorable. The next car I’d rent would be quite different.

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Infiniti Version Of Straight-To-Rental Nissan Leaf Planned http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2010/03/infiniti-version-of-straight-to-rental-nissan-leaf-planned/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2010/03/infiniti-version-of-straight-to-rental-nissan-leaf-planned/#comments Tue, 23 Mar 2010 17:55:58 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=350089 One of the biggest conundrums facing the folks tasked with marketing the forthcoming first generation of mainstream electric cars is branding. On the one hand, firms want their mainstream brands associated with the green halo of having an electric car in its portfolio. On the other hand, electric cars aren’t cheap. From a pure pricing […]

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One of the biggest conundrums facing the folks tasked with marketing the forthcoming first generation of mainstream electric cars is branding. On the one hand, firms want their mainstream brands associated with the green halo of having an electric car in its portfolio. On the other hand, electric cars aren’t cheap. From a pure pricing perspective, it makes more sense to brand expensive EVs as luxury products. GM struggled with this problem when it developed its Converj version of the Volt, ultimately deciding that the common-sense arguments for branding the $40k Volt as a Cadillac weren’t as important as boosting Chevy’s profile with an EV offering. Nissan, meanwhile, has decided that it has room for both a Nissan-branded Leaf EV and an Infiniti-branded luxury version.

Top Gear reports that the new Infiniti variant of the Leaf:

will use the same platform as the Leaf, but a different body. So it will be the smallest Infiniti. But all Infinitis are supposed to have high performance as well as being luxurious, so the motor power will be turned up compared with the Leaf’s.

Normally this would result in a shorter range, but the Infiniti electric car won’t be launched until 2014 or so, when Nissan is ready with its next generation of battery, which should hold enough charge to cope with the increased power.

At a projected (although not assured) price point of about $25k, there should be more room in Nissan’s portfolio for an upmarket EV, especially since it appears to be quite a few years off. Meanwhile, to make sure that the Leaf is sufficiently pedestrian to be differentiated from the Infiniti version, Nissan has announced [via Treehugger] that the rental firm Hertz will add the Leaf to its lineup starting in 2011.

A fleet queen EV? No wonder a luxury version is being planned. In seriousness though, acceptance of the Leaf by a major car rental firm will go a long way towards alleviating concerns about the pioneering EV. If nothing else, the rental program will be able to help target the leaf at its most important markets, and offer potential customers an opportunity to test the car obligation-free.

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