By Amy Winter
As a newbie to the auto rental world, I have only started to get my feet wet. For the past four months, I have been researching car rental trends and news and trying to get a handle on industry terms and lingo.
But I hadn’t had the opportunity to meet the faces that make the industry run. Until last week. To help gain a better understanding of how car rental companies operate, my executive editor prepared a field trip for us to visit four local independent car rental locations in Los Angeles.
The check-in desk for Fox Rent-A-Car's airport location in Los Angeles.
With my notebook in hand, I was ready to experience car rental operations from the inside. Our first stop was Fox Rent A Car near Los Angeles International Airport.
Known as the fifth largest car rental company, it was intriguing to see how this car rental operation has expanded and continues to expand even amid fierce competition from bigger competitors. A framed motto truly illustrated Fox’s dedication to its customers: “Customer service is not a department; it’s our commitment to you!”
Our next stop was an all-green rental operator in Venice Beach. From the Toyota Prius to the Chevy Volt to the new all-electric Tesla Model S, MPG Car Rental offers a variety of hybrid and plug-in rental vehicles.
MPG Car Rental in Venice, Calif. Pictured from left to right: Paul Hernandez, manager; Patrick Levenson, assistant manager; Steve Vahidi, owner
It was fascinating to see how MPG has found its niche audience and caters to customers interested in trying out a green vehicle. With three years under its belt, MPG has high hopes for the future and plans to expand, according to MPG Owner Steve Vahidi.
After Venice Beach, we made our way up to Platinum Car Rental on Sunset Boulevard in West Hollywood — the perfect spot for a luxury rental operation. Aside from drooling over the Porsches, Lamborghinis and Mercedes vehicles, the most interesting part was learning how this car rental operation came to be.
Sam Telikyan, owner of Platinum Transportation, at the rental location in Hollywood.
After opening a body shop, Platinum saw a need for luxury rentals. According to Owner Sam Telikyan, the customers leaving their luxury vehicles at the body shop wanted comparable high-end rentals. These body shop customers became the company’s target audience.
Our last stop was Black and White Car Rental in Beverly Hills. Although the company offered the newest luxury and exotic vehicles, the lot also included standard vehicles like the Toyota Corolla and Volkswagen Jetta.
To me, it looked like a well-rounded selection of different types of vehicles. What stuck with me was how Owner Sam Zaman described the car rental industry: “it’s about people.”
General Manager Dan Darvish and Owner Sam Zaman at Black and White Car Rental's location in Beverly Hills.
After my field trip, I discovered that this industry really is about the people — not just about the customers, but also about the people who run it.
These operators are people who have a passion for cars and want to share that passion with their customers. And by finding a niche audience, these independent operators are able to survive in a very competitive market.