Article by Mike Bartley
Have you been to a rental firm lately? If the answer is on the negative, never be stunned why more hybrids are available for rent. The increasing demand for environment-friendly cars requires rental firms to go green.
Hertz Global Holdings Inc. said last Thursday that it will spend million to add 3,400 Toyota Prius hybrids to its fleets by 2008. As early as next week, Avis Budget Group Inc. intends to make 1,000 hybrid Prius vehicles available for rent.
The Prius is one of the first mass-produced and marketed hybrid electric vehicles. The hybrid became famous not because of Haynes but because of its fuel economy. The United States Environmental Protection Agency‘s (EPA) revised fuel economy procedure rated the vehicle at 48 mpg in city driving and 45 mpg on the highway. The Prius first went on sale in Japan in 1997, and worldwide in 2001.
Brian Chee, an automotive analyst for Autobytel.com’s upcoming Web site MyRide.com, said that even with the fleet expansions, hybrid vehicles still represent a small part of rental car fleets. “This is a first step,” Chee said. “It’ll be interesting to see if the rental car companies continue this. Like other companies, they’re making a ‘green’ statement, and this is a good way to do it.”
Chee said that the rentals offer the Toyota Motor Corp. a chance to showcase the Prius, as well as give potential buyers a chance to decide if a hybrid is right for them. “I do think it’s a risky move for Toyota, because what they’re saying is: ‘Here’s the car, here’s how it drives, we stand by our power train, and we think it’ll win people over,’” Chee said. “It shows Toyota’s confidence that it’ll win over fans when they don’t have to buy it.”
By replacing 1,000 of its usual rental cars with the gas-electric Prius models, Hertz said that it will reduce carbon dioxide emissions by an estimated 3,000 tons per year. “Today’s announcement highlights the next step in what is already a multiyear effort by Hertz to promote environmental sustainability throughout the company,” Mark Frissora, Hertz’ chairman and chief executive, said Thursday. “As a global leader in car rentals, we recognize our unique opportunity and obligation to promote environmental practices and give our customers environmentally friendly options.”
Hertz said that its hybrid vehicles will be available for rent at 50 of the company’s U.S. airport locations, with 100 of them reserved for its New York City fleet. The stop-and-go flow of Manhattan traffic provides an ideal driving environment for the hybrids, allowing them to mainly operate off of their electric motors, the company added.
New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg said that the greater availability of hybrid rental cars is in line with his city’s goal to reduce its emissions by 30 percent by the year 2030. “These hybrid cars really put Hertz in the driver’s seat… in meeting one of the greatest challenges of our time, which is global warming,” Bloomberg said at the Museum of Natural History.
John Barrows, Avis’ spokesman, said that this week, his company will offer Prius hybrids in its California, Portland, Ore., Seattle and Washington, D.C., markets but may expand the locations in the future based on consumer demand. Barrows said that Avis also believes that the Prius rentals will not only appeal to travelers, but those interested in buying a hybrid. He added, “Obviously we have customers who want them. And there are other people out there who are interested in purchasing a hybrid but really want to check one out before buying one.”
Also, Enterprise Rent-A-Car, which operates over 3,000 hybrid vehicles, will add 41,000 flex-fuel cars and light trucks.
Mike Bartley, 49, is a professional automotive journalist domiciled in Irvine, CA. He travels from one state to another to cover the hottest auto shows, racing events and automotive revelations. His penned compositions cover press releases, reviews, and suggestions. Where the auto action is, that’s exactly where you can find Mike.