COLUMBUS (COLUMBUS BUSINESS FIRST) — A Central Ohio auto dealerwants to boost its sales by expanding its rental car reach.
Byers Auto Group has acquired the Dollar and Thrifty rental car operations at John Glenn International Airport and at Dayton International Airport for an undisclosed sum.
The deal not only gives the dealer a full suite of rental options when combined with the Hertz rental business it already runs at both airports, it also creates a new customer for its dealerships.
The rental business fits into a nifty ecosystem with the Byers dealerships. The rental entities not only buy new cars from Byers, they also turn around and sell used vehicles back to Byers stores at the end of their rental life.
“This is an opportunity to expand our fleet business,” said Blaine Byers, who oversees the rental car business. “But it also creates used cars for our dealerships.”
That gives Byers a steady supply of used cars at a time when demand for used vehicles is high.
Byers has had Hertz locations for years. In addition to the airport operations it has 18 other sites in Columbus and within an hour’s radius or so. It also picked up an office in Newark in the past year alongside the Dollar and Thrifty additions.
The airport locations are more travel-focused, while some of the other sites do more business as service loaners and short-term insurance replacements.
Dollar and Thrifty both also are Hertz brands. Byers has been working on the deals for year and reached out after the company went into Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection.
Byers said the Hertz brand is geared more toward business travelers, Dollar toward vacation travelers and Thrifty toward the budget-conscious.
“Now we’re able to offer all three to our customers,” he said.
The rental car business is booming at the moment, rebounding from a tumultuous 2020.
“It was complete chaos,” Byers said. “We had almost no business from March to July last year. Now we’re at a point where we can’t cover the demand.”
Byers said vehicle rental prices are as high as he’s ever seen them and vehicle supply is tight due to the ongoing shortage of microchips squeezing the auto industry.
“We’re going to run out of cars every weekend this summer,” he said. “The good news is we’re all dealing with the same problem, but we didn’t buy this just for the immediate sales. These are long-term acquisitions.”
The Columbus and Dayton airport deals may not be the last additions the company makes. Byers said they’re in discussions about other units around the state as well, though no deals have been finalized.
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