Black and White’s fleet of luxury and exotic rentals makes a statement on the lot. Sam Zaman says 90% of his fleet is either black or white, his favorite colors for vehicles.
Several years ago, Dan Darvish hit a professional roadblock. He was working at an independent Los Angeles rental agency that catered to hotels and movie studios. There was steady demand for sedans, camera trucks and 15-passenger vans, but Darvish wasn’t satisfied. Believing there was bigger business in better cars, he began reaching out to more upscale hotels and petitioning his boss to add luxury and exotic units to satisfy their wealthy guests.
“He was adamant against it,” Darvish says. “He was a very conservative businessman, and a niche market was out of his comfort zone.” And so Darvish went looking for a source for luxury rentals. “Everybody said, ‘You gotta call Sam.’”
Sam Zaman, that is, owner of Black and White Car Rental in Beverly Hills, Calif. Zaman and his father, Jay, opened the business in 1994, when Sam was still in high school. They started with a small insurance-replacement fleet and quickly cornered the local body-shop market. “We showed the body shops they had an option (to the national chains),” Zaman says, which meant offering a better class of replacement vehicle, establishing direct billing with insurance companies and “bending the rules” of the corporate RAC standards such as qualifying underage drivers.
After his father retired in 1999, Zaman took over the business and rewarded himself with a brand-new Porsche Carrera. Parked on Black and White’s corner lot, the Carrera began to get attention from would-be renters. Swayed by popular demand, Zaman began renting out his Carrera and looking for additional upscale units.
“‘Are you crazy, renting out your car?’ That was the first reaction I would get,” he says. “There was a lot of risk. It’s like giving one guy eight Corollas.”
Sam Zaman, owner, Black and White Car Rental
Standard and Exotic
By the time he met Darvish, Zaman had already begun to expand his luxury fleet. He started with Mercedes-Benz sedans, scaling up from C-Class to E-Class and then S-Class, which has become their most popular luxury unit. He then partnered with BMW of Beverly Hills and added a fleet of 3, 5 and 7 Series.
“Seventy percent of Sam’s cars were on rent to other companies,” Darvish says. “And he had no sales, no marketing; he was wearing 15 different hats.” The two decided to join forces. Darvish came on board as general manager and went to work drumming up more hotel and studio business.
Nonetheless, standard rentals still account for more than three-quarters of Black and White’s 420-vehicle fleet. How to market both remains the question. “We’re fighting it out as we speak,” Darvish says. “Should we have two separate websites or one site where people can choose from regular cars or super exotics?”
Buying and Selling
Fleet financing was “a big hurdle to jump over.” Black and White has worked with 1st Source Bank from the beginning — a relationship that grew slowly. “They’ve been wonderful, like family,” Zaman says. “Now it’s like buying a Corolla. But they don’t and will not fund exotic cars for just anybody.”
Zaman buys from local dealerships. “We never leased; you cannot lease exotics,” he says. He then gives those dealerships a special rate for their customers who may want to test drive a vehicle before purchasing.
The dealers also have the right of first refusal on buying back the units. Super exotics depreciate “on a very different schedule,” Zaman says, and their resale value tends to nosedive after 10,000 miles.