Florida Rental Operators Return to Locations After Irma

Teams conduct rescue operations in Jacksonville, Florida, Sept. 11, 2017. Photo courtesy of U.S. Coast Guard District 7
Teams conduct rescue operations in Jacksonville, Florida, Sept. 11, 2017. Photo courtesy of U.S. Coast Guard District 7

After Hurricane Irma battered its way through the Caribbean, it hit Florida as a category 4 hurricane on Sunday and then continued to cause damage through Georgia and South Carolina. As of Tuesday, the storm weakened to a post-tropical cyclone and moved toward Tennessee.

We talked to rental operators in Florida to get an update on their rental locations and their employees after Irma tore through the region. 

As of Tuesday, Sixt reopened its South Florida locations to the public. Sixt closed its locations in Fort Lauderdale, Miami, Orlando, and Tampa.

“The greatest win for us was that we were able to make sure that all our employees were safe,” says Daniel Florence, co-president of Sixt North America. “We shut down the operations earlier to allow them to take care of any personal issues, whether that was evacuating themselves or finishing hurricane prep at their homes.”

Additionally, Sixt secured its fleet before the hurricane hit. According to Florence, most of the vehicles were moved from downtown locations to airport locations to be stored.

“While we had a few vehicles with minor damage, the good news is that the hurricane didn’t cause significant impact to our fleet,” he says.

Miami was the biggest hit for Sixt, but since its vehicles were stored in the airport’s consolidated rental car facility, it helped reduce the amount of damage.

“We had insignificant damage to some of our facilities, but nothing to keep us from opening back up,” says Florence. “At our Fort Lauderdale airport location, a sign was knocked down.”

Over the weekend, Sixt closed its Tampa location at noon on Saturday and then closed its Orlando location by 5:30 p.m. on Saturday.

“Over the weekend, some customers returned their vehicles to our northern Florida locations and Atlanta,” says Florence. “And other customers kept the cars and planned to return them on Tuesday.”

As of Wednesday, Hertz reopened its national headquarters in Estero, Fla. The Hertz facility sheltered 500 people during Hurricane Irma, including Lee County Sheriff's office, which moved its mobile headquarters to Hertz's garage. The new Hertz headquarters building withstood Irma with small amounts of damage; it was built to survive category 4 hurricanes, according to the company.

Bruno Vargas, owner of Speed Luxury Car Rental in Miami, parked his luxury rental vehicles inside his facillity in Miami during Hurricane Irma. Photo courtesy of Bruno Vargas
Bruno Vargas, owner of Speed Luxury Car Rental in Miami, parked his luxury rental vehicles inside his facillity in Miami during Hurricane Irma. Photo courtesy of Bruno Vargas

At Fox Rent A Car, the locations in Miami, Ft. Myers, and Orlando are all operational as of Tuesday but are doing so without power.

“We have had some serious hurdles to contend with and are only operating during daylight hours,” says Mike Olson, vice president of marketing for Fox Rent-A-Car.

At Fox’s locations in Fort Lauderdale and Tampa, there is power on-site but it’s limiting. According to Olson, the locations are running extension cords from outdoor outlets that still had power running to them.

Fuel is also a concern. Most stations and suppliers were out pre-storm, but those capabilities are coming back online as soon as possible, says Olson.

First Class Rent A Car in Miami suffered no damage to its location or its vehicles. During the hurricane, Owner Carlos Dolabella stored his luxury and exotic rental vehicles in his location’s warehouse. Bruno Vargas, owner of Speed Luxury Car Rental in Miami, also was able to park his luxury vehicles in a safe place.

“Most importantly, all of our employees and their families are safe and are trying to find ways to get to their offices,” says Olson. “There are still limitations and curfews.”

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