The Rental Car Business Is Back

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People are back to renting cars, range anxiety is disappearing in Europe and China’s EV projections are getting more serious. All that and more in The Morning Shift for November 2, 2020.

(Irregular FYI: Some of the stories linked to below are behind paywalls. Pay for the news you value!)

1st Gear: Rental Car Companies Are Now Back To Doing Fine

This makes a lot of sense, given that people still aren’t really down with air travel and rental companies have adapted to the pandemic with various cleanliness measures. I have heard, anecdotally, that it’s a pain in the ass to rent a car in the New York City area at the moment because of demand, news that I have taken as vindication for being a car owner here for over a decade.


(Pro tip for New Yorkers: I have also heard that it is fairly easy to rent a car at the airports, since far fewer people are flying and renting cars there.)

From The Wall Street Journal:

Customers, wary of air travel, rushed to rent vehicles for road trips and business needs and as an alternative to using ride-hailing apps operated by Uber Technologies Inc. UBER +3.11% and Lyft Inc., executives and analysts say.

These trends helped Avis Budget Group Inc. swing to a net profit of $45 million in the third quarter, reversing losses in the first half of the year, the company said Friday. Privately held Enterprise Holdings Inc. also said it has benefited from an uptick in leisure travel, with bookings improving over the summer and customers renting vehicles for longer periods.

Both Avis and Enterprise say they plan to resume buying vehicles to update their fleets after some downsizing earlier in the year, a move that could bolster sales for car companies reliant on rental-car firms for a portion of their business.

Hertz, still in bankruptcy and recently delisted from the New York Stock Exchange, this summer pointed to record used-car prices as aiding efforts to whittle down the company’s fleet to raise cash.

“We’re starting to see new usage cases for rental cars,” said Chris Woronka, an analyst for Deutsche Bank. “In big cities, people are renting cars to get to work, and some companies are even paying for that instead of public transportation. That just didn’t exist before.”


2nd Gear: Tesla Fined By Germany

Tesla is trying to get its plant outside of Berlin up and running, with aspirations to start production there next summer. In the meantime, it will be paying a fine.


From Automotive News:

Tesla has been ordered to pay a fine of 12 million euros ($14 million) in Germany for alleged non-compliance with a law requiring automakers that sell electric cars to take back batteries to environmentally dispose.

Tesla reported the fine, which was imposed by the German Federal Environmental Agency, in a filing to the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission.

In the filing Tesla said it has continued to take back battery packs as required under vehicle end-of-life rules and the fine is primarily related to administrative requirements.

“We have filed our objection and it is not expected to have a material adverse impact on our business,” Tesla said in the filing.


3rd Gear: Renault Is Fighting The Good Fight

“Range anxiety” is the term for an irrational fear of getting caught in the middle of nowhere with your electric car and with no charger in sight. It is mostly nonsense because the vast majority of trips are short, and if you own an electric car you probably also have a charger at home. Range anxiety is a little more rational if one intends to take a road trip, since EV infrastructure in America remains ass.


Meanwhile, Europe has a bit better EV infrastructure, and it appears that range anxiety is going out of the window almost entirely. Take Renault, which makes the Zoe, a nice, small electric car with a range of 249 miles.

From Reuters:

Steve Tomlin, who runs a Renault dealership in Britain, says sales of the Zoe small electric car have shot up this year, a turnaround he partly puts down to a fading of “range anxiety”, the fear of running out of power mid-journey.

The revamped model, which has accounted for a third of Tomlin’s sales for a couple of months this year, has a range of 400 km (249-mile). By contrast the previous model, which drew much lower sales, offered 300 km when fully charged.

“Range anxiety has gone away and once you explain how easy it is to live day to day with an electric vehicle, that has a big impact on sales,” said Tomlin, general manager of Martins Renault & Dacia in Reading, about 65 km west of London.

Renault told Reuters that UK sales of the Zoe had more than doubled this year, and that in France its zero-emission cars had outsold its diesel models this year through to the end of September - 19% versus 18% - in a significant milestone.


I sort of suspect, here in the States, that electric cars haven’t taken off because electric cars are so damn expensive, not because of range anxiety, which is a concept pushed by [Trump voice] the fake news media.

4th Gear: China’s Electric Push

It remains kind of weird that despite us hearing about alternative energy cars being a thing all the time, they still aren’t really a thing. That’s true even in places like Europe and China, where government incentives and regulations are really trying to make them a thing. Though they are becoming more of a thing.


EV and PHEV sales are about 10 percent of the market in Europe, though they are projected to rise to 15 percent next year. In China they are 5 percent of the market, and last week the China Society of Automotive Engineers projected they would rise to 20 percent by 2025. This week the government affirmed that projection and integrated it into a state policy report, making it part of the country’s newest five-year plan.

Per Reuters:

Sales of electric, plug-in hybrid and hydrogen-powered vehicles in China, the world’s biggest auto market, are forecast to rise to 20% of overall new car sales by 2025 from just 5% now, the State Council said on Monday.

Sales of so-called new energy vehicles (NEV), which include battery electric, plug-in hybrid and hydrogen fuel-cell vehicles will rise as China’s NEV industry has improved their technology and competitiveness, the State Council, China’s cabinet, said in a policy paper as part of the release of the country’s 14th five-year plan through to 2025.


5th Gear: Aston Martin Also Shooting For 20 Percent

Aston and Mercedes announced last week that they were getting more serious because of electric powertrains, in that Aston wanted access to Mercedes’ electric and hybrid tech for its cars. Automotive News reported yesterday that Aston hopes that at least 20 percent of its car sales by 2024 will be electrified cars.

Every fourth or fifth Aston Martin sold in 2024 will be electrified, with a plug-in hybrid version of the DBX ultraluxury SUV arriving in 2023, CEO Tobias Moers said.


Aston Martin previously said it would launch its own hybrid V-6 drivetrain in the Valhalla hypercar in 2021. Moers, however, hinted that the automaker could end the project and use a Mercedes powertrain instead.

“We are still working on that [hybrid drivetrain], but we now have alternatives. It’s too early to say” what decision will be made, he said during a call with reporters last week.

The Valhalla will be followed by the Vanquish midengine coupe, which will also have an electrified powertrain. Moers said people who buy midengined supercars now expected them to have hybrid technology.

Meanwhile, Aston’s first full-electric car will arrive in 2025-26 and be equipped with Mercedes technology, Moers said.


Reverse: Howard Hughes

“Development of the Spruce Goose cost a phenomenal $23 million...”


Neutral: How Are You?

I will not be making any election predictions today, for once going with my better judgment. Please go vote if you haven’t already. Throw the bum(s) out!


More on topic: Have you rented a car lately? Was it expensive and difficult or?