As founder and president of Gotham Dream Cars in New York City, Noah Lehmann-Haupt is surrounded by a fleet of cars befitting British royalty or a Saudi oil baron. And when the mood strikes him, he can take a Ferrari Murcielago, Continental GT or the relatively mundane Porsche 911 twin-turbo out for a Sunday spin.
It is one of the perks of owning an exotic car rental company. Yet those moments are tempered with ones like these:
On the day after Christmas, 2004, Lehmann-Haupt was lying in bed when he got a call from the guy renting his Lamborghini Gallardo. Lehmann-Haupt soon found himself staring at the back of a wrecker, with his $175,000 baby “crumpled into a little ball.” No one was hurt; knock on wood. However, “that started a six-month process of waking up every day wondering if I’d get my $175,000 back,” he says. “I had to fight him and his insurance company. They wanted to nullify the contract.”
Though Lehmann-Haupt eventually did get his money back, the story defines the nature of exotic car rentals: It takes plenty of working capital, extra attention to customer service and a healthy appetite for risk.
The Market for Exotics
Being rich is not necessarily the rule when it comes to wanting to tool around in an exotic vehicle for a couple of days. Yes, wealthy clients who own expensive sport cars want to drive a similar type of vehicle when traveling. But the majority of customers who rent specialty cars are those who can’t afford to buy one.
Although Gotham Dream Cars caters to a range of clients, Lehmann-Haupt says many are wives and girlfriends who want to get their husbands and boyfriends a unique birthday or anniversary present.
Another typical client is the 30-something, male small business owner who doesn’t have enough disposable income to purchase an exotic car, he says.
John Kiland, owner of Rent-A-Vette in Las Vegas and San Diego, says his Las Vegas location attracts mostly tourists. At San Diego’s Rent-A-Vette, local clients rent the cars mostly for weekend getaways.