While nobody needs to tell you that the economy isn’t in good health, we should at least hip you to the latest automotive trends relating to the financial purgatory we’re currently living through. Ford sent a memo to dealers last week indicating that it would be removing the minimum FICO requirement for 84-month financing, indicating that the industry may soon normalize auto loans that are even longer than the 72-month whoppers that have grown in popularity over the last several years.
Meanwhile, those needing a vehicle intermittently will find that rental rates have not been declining as hoped. Despite analysts previously suggesting that auto pricing may stabilize through the fall, we now look to be going into the holidays facing familiar high-priced troubles — and there’s really no reason to think that’s going to change after 2022 gets here.
With rental companies coming off a particularly lean 2020, fleet downsizing turned out to be a necessity for many agencies. Unfortunately, demand for rental vehicles has begun to return and some markets have found themselves operating with an insufficient number of cars. The upside to this is the ability to charge exorbitant fees for models nobody wanted to rent in the first place. But businesses can’t cash in on vehicles that didn’t get rented, leaving agencies desperate for new product that’s been backlogged by the auto industry’s semiconductor shortage.
The solution is a novel one, at least for rental companies. Rather than gamble the business on whether or not supply chains normalize before summer, they’ve been prowling auctions and hoovering up used cars in record numbers.
The writing was on the wall for the last month, at least. Hertz Global Holdings, Inc. has filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection after the coronavirus pandemic sent rentals — and revenue — crashing, forcing the debt-laden company into a corner that’s proven near impossible to escape from.
One of the world’s largest car rental agencies, Hertz laid off more than 12,000 workers in March and furloughed another 4,000 before scrapping 90 percent of the new car acquisitions it had on the books for 2020. While that might have stopped some of the bleeding, the core issue remains: few people are travelling, and even fewer are renting cars.
After suspending manual background checks to encourage fresh users in April, Daimler subsidiary Car2Go found itself with a problem in Chicago — its new customers were stealing cars by the gross.
On the April 15th, the ride-sharing service notice an uptick in usage that was well above the norm. However, as the day progressed, the company found that a lot of its higher-end vehicles weren’t coming back. Instead, they were convening on Chicago’s West Side. Two days later, the Chicago Police Department announced that it had been notified by Car2Go that some of the company’s vehicles may have been rented by deceptive or fraudulent means and was officially on the prowl for justice.
General Motors has decided to further shrink its outgoing fleet of rental vehicles to prioritize its in-house vehicle lending service, Maven, and focus on getting newer cars to customers. That does mean building fewer vehicles overall, but GM shouldn’t care if it can keep raking in the profits — something rental fleets aren’t particularly good at in lower volumes, unless you’re the one charging a daily rate.
Alan Batey, president of GM’s North American operations, claims sales to rental fleets should drop by about 50,000 units this year and an undisclosed amount in 2018. It follows the company’s trend to scale back fleet sales in general. Big businesses accounted for 16.1 percent of its total U.S. sales in 2014, but that was reduced to 11.7 percent in 2016.
Car sharing is one of the cornerstones of automakers’ newfound focus on mobility solutions. It’s a brave new world for vehicle manufacturers, but it’s also a brave new world for consumers. With roughly 22 million American’s underemployed — that’s people with jobs that don’t provide adequate income, full-time hours, or exist outside the hire’s experience/education — many people have taken on part-time work to fill in the gaps.
Taking advantage of this unique workforce, Maven, General Motors’ mobility arm, is launching Maven Gig, providing part-timers with weekly access to its fleet of Bolt EVs. Gig functions similarly to Maven City and GM’s Express Drive partnership with Lyft, but is specifically designed for renters who don’t own a vehicle and might want to spend a week delivering pizza or working for a ride-hailing service on an extremely limited basis.
An interesting idea, but a bit of an odd duck at $229 a week. GM is pitching it as a way to “enable freelancers to earn income through multiple sources.”
As urban populations grow and analysts continue to predict dwindling car ownership, alternatives have sprung up and automakers are gradually getting in on that sweet car-sharing action. Currently active in 17 North American cities, General Motors’ hourly ride-sharing unit Maven has been building slowly.
GM is now expanding Maven to include long-term rentals which, come to think of it, sounds identical to what it was doing with its Book by Cadillac premium subscription service. While the Caddy offering is intended to be a monthly subscription serving as an alternative to normal vehicle ownership, nothing is really stopping customers from using “Maven Reserve” in a similar manner.
Also similar is the pricing. While the special Maven Reserve vehicles don’t yet encompass all GM’s fleet, a Chevrolet Tahoe runs $1,500 for 28 days, which is identical to the subscription fee for Cadillac Book, which also includes curbside car delivery and mid-month vehicle swapping.
In essence, GM is allowing you to have simultaneous access to a CTS-V and Escalade or a Tahoe for the same amount of money.
Seyth Miersma of Autoblog has been exploring Cuba through a car enthusiast’s lens as of late, and it isn’t easy. In fact, the seasoned writer tried to rent a car in the island nation and ran into some cultural roadblocks.
CubaCar, Cuba’s state-run car rental service, may let you reserve a car at one of their many locations, but actually getting a car seems to be a bit of a headache. Also, it isn’t what you would call cheap or convenient.
Forget two or three year leases. Daimler will rent you cars by the minute and “is stealing customers from Mazda and Fiat with rentals aimed at drivers ready to forgo auto ownership,” reports Businessweek.
Emboldened by the successes of Zipcar and other short term rental or car sharing ventures, Daimler is test marketing its Car2go service Austin, TX, and Ulm, Germany. Soon to follow: Hamburg, Germany, in early in 2011, and dozens more cities in Europe and North America. Car2go rents Smart cars by the minute. Other carmakers, such as BMW and PSA want to develop similar services.
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