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Hertz bankruptcy and a distressed rental car market means more pain for U.S. automakers

Signage for Hertz Global Holdings Inc. stands at a rental location in Berkeley, California, U.S., on Tuesday, May 5, 2020.

David Paul Morris | Bloomberg | Getty Images

Ongoing misery within the rental automotive market as a result of coronavirus pandemic, highlighted by Chapter 11 chapter filings of Hertz and the mother or father firm of Advantage Rent A Car up to now week, will place further strain on the already troubled U.S. auto business.

New automobile gross sales to rental automotive corporations accounted for about 10%, or 1.7 million automobiles, final 12 months. That demand came to a grinding halt as a result of coronavirus disaster as Americans sheltered of their properties to cease the unfold of the illness, with some anticipating 250,000 or much less gross sales to such companies in 2020.

“That’s where the majority of the risk is for the year,” stated Jeff Schuster, LMC Automotive president of the Americas and international automobile forecasts. He expects little to no gross sales to rental automotive corporations for the rest of the 12 months.

Sales to rental automotive corporations aren’t as worthwhile for automakers as these to sellers for particular person clients, however they’re a serious lever for automakers to make use of to unload giant quantities of automobiles. Companies similar to Nissan Motor and the Detroit automakers notably depend on day by day rental corporations for gross sales of a whole bunch of 1000’s of automobiles a 12 months.

The rental automotive business has traditionally been used to “dump” vehicles into to realize gross sales information or decrease excessive stock ranges. But its significance for the U.S. auto business is much extra necessary than simply that, officers say.

“While margins are very low on rental sales, they do increase volume and generate cash. Cash flow is the name of the game right now so that will have an impact,” Schuster stated. “That puts more pressure on plants to get up and running and build truck inventory for the retail market.”

Wide-ranging influence

The rental automotive business additionally impacts pricing, profitability and residual values of particular person automobiles for automakers. Such a speedy decline in gross sales might trigger automakers to lift automobile costs or discontinue automobiles that closely depend on rental, which might mean fewer jobs at U.S. plants.

“It’s pretty amazing how many facets of the industry could be impacted by, not necessarily the bankruptcies, but lower business travel, fewer rental and most of the rental car companies not needing to participate in the fleet side of the business,” stated Tyson Jominy, J.D. Power vp of knowledge and analytics.

Ford began resuming automobile manufacturing within the U.S. on May 18, 2020 with new coronavirus security protocols similar to well being assessments, private protecting tools and facility modifications to extend social distancing.


The rental automotive bankruptcies additionally might end in an inflow of used vehicles flooding the already crowded used automotive market, impacting residual values of automobiles as provide outpaces demand. That might imply a superb deal on a used automotive for customers, nonetheless, a considerably decrease worth for trade-in automobiles for customers and off-lease automobiles for financing corporations. Lower values can injury auto manufacturers and influence pricing on newer fashions. 

Manheim, a serious auto public sale agency within the U.S., reported a “historic fall” in used automobile costs as vehicles and vans had been coming off-lease and never being bought. The agency reviews costs are rebounding in May, however stay decrease than a 12 months in the past.

“Once the used market doesn’t function properly, the new market really can struggle,” Jominy stated. “It’s a really interesting dynamic the way one feeds the other.”

Detroit automakers, Nissan most impacted

Rental automotive gross sales are notably necessary for the Detroit Big Three automakers and Nissan, in keeping with a latest investor be aware from Credit Suisse’s Dan Levy, citing business knowledge from WardsAuto InfoBank, J.D. Power and others.

General Motors, Ford Motor and Fiat Chrysler collectively accounted for about 56%, or 975,000 automobiles, to rental automotive corporations final 12 months. Fiat Chrysler led their crosstown rivals at 21%, adopted by Nissan (20%), GM (18%) and Ford (17%). South Korean automaker Hyundai Motor, together with Kia Motors, and Toyota Motor every accounted for about 11% of gross sales to rental automotive corporations.

Sales to rental automotive companies have traditionally accounted for almost all of fleet gross sales for automakers, which represented about 17%, or 2.9 million, of the 17 million automobiles bought within the U.S. final 12 months, in keeping with analysis agency IHS Automotive. Fleet gross sales are these to rental automotive corporations, authorities companies and different industrial companies.

Fleet gross sales for the Detroit automakers have considerably decreased up to now decade. For instance, almost 30% of GM’s gross sales within the late-2000s had been to fleet corporations, in keeping with annual filings. In 2019, they solely represented 16.1%.

Cox Automotive reviews among the automobiles bought to rental companies final 12 months included giant pickups and vans from Ford and Fiat Chrysler, Nissan Altima and Sentra sedans, Nissan Rogue crossover, and midsize and compact vehicles from Toyota, Ford, Chevrolet and Hyundai. 

Hertz’s chapter ‘manageable’

Levy described the influence of the Chapter 11 filing for Hertz, which additionally contains the Dollar and Thrifty manufacturers, as “manageable” for the auto business.

A bigger blow can be if further giant rental corporations similar to Enterprise — the nation’s largest car rental firm — had been to considerably reduce buying for a chronic time or go underneath. The privately held firm has greater than greater than 2 million vehicles and vans globally by means of its Enterprise Rent-A-Car, National Car Rental and Alamo Rent A Car manufacturers. 

“While Hertz has comparable share to Enterprise in the U.S. airport rental market, it is in comparison small in the off-airport market, where Enterprise holds ~75% of share,” Levy wrote.

The coronavirus and measures to cease it from spreading has devastated air travel demand within the U.S., which has considerably impacted rental automotive corporations that depend on airport enterprise. Covid-19 brought on airline journey to plummet to the bottom ranges for the reason that 1950s, earlier than the jet age, in keeping with Airlines for America, an business group that represents the biggest U.S. carriers.

Alicante Airport arrival corridor with passengers, baggage on trolleys and a Hertz and Europcar rental automotive station.

EyesWideOpen | Getty Images

Demand is beginning to get better however it’s nonetheless far off its regular ranges for this time of 12 months. Over Memorial Day weekend, the normal kick-off of the height spring and summer time journey season, 1.2 million folks handed by means of safety checkpoints at U.S. airports, greater than triple the degrees of a month earlier than however down 87% from the identical dates in 2019.

Hertz filed for bankruptcy protection final Friday, adopted by Advantage Holdco – mother or father firm of Advantage Rent A Car, E-Z Rent A Car and a number of other affiliate corporations – submitting for Chapter 11 late Tuesday. Both corporations cited the declines in journey devastating their companies as causes for his or her filings.

Due to the plummet in journey, auto analysis agency IHS Markit does not count on any “solid recovery” to happen for fleet automobile gross sales, together with rental, till 2022.

“Our base case scenario doesn’t envision business travel coming back until the last quarter of the year, and leisure travel coming back at some point in 2021,” stated Guido Vildozo, senior supervisor of sunshine automobile gross sales forecasting for the Americas for IHS Markit. “Fleet has serious implications for the next year and a half.”

— CNBC’s Leslie Josephs contributed to this report.



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