Press Sighting: Orlando Sentinel
December 18, 2007
We'll take the good with the bad. Steve Smith over at the Orlando Sentinel wrote an excellent story about this crazy industry and included some "tales from the field" that we relayed to him. "Gotham, one of the largest and oldest companies of its kind in the country, rents exotic autos from offices in New York City and Miami. As you might expect, the Miami fleet is heavy on bling in general, convertibles in particular."
SENTINEL HELP TEAM
Looking for a dreamy drive for the day? Exotic-car rentals a growing industry
The exotic-car-rental business is a growing industry in vacation spots such as Orlando
Noah Lehmann-Haupt knew that someday, the call would come. On Christmas Day, four years ago, it finally did.
Â "Noah," the customer said, "I have a little problem. I got into an accident."
Lehmann-Haupt's first question: Was anyone hurt?
No, but the car -- "It's a little banged up in front," the customer said.
Banged up? What did that mean? Totaled?
"I don't know," the customer said.
Lehmann-Haupt and his business partner, owners of the Gotham Dream Cars exotic-car-rental agency, drove to the scene in Long Beach, N.Y. And yes, their $185,000 Lamborghini was totaled.
"At first, we were sort of in shock," Lehmann-Haupt said. "But then, it just becomes a matter of logistics. We filed the claim with our insurance company, made sure all the documentation was in order, and within 60 days, we had a new car."
Such a problem becomes a "blip on the radar screen," he says, since his insurance paperwork was in order and the claim went through.
"Fortunately, the vast majority of our rentals don't end that way," he said. "We've had four total losses in nearly 1,500 rentals."
Gotham, one of the largest and oldest companies of its kind in the country, rents exotic autos from offices in New York City and Miami. As you might expect, the Miami fleet is heavy on bling in general, convertibles in particular.
A Porsche 911 Turbo Cabriolet goes for $795 a day. An Aston-Martin Vantage, $1,950 a day. A Ford GT, $1,750 a day.
The exotic-car-rental business is growing nationally, and in a temperate vacation destination such as Orlando, there are multiple agencies with long lists of available vehicles.
At Exotic Dream Car Rental, for example, a red Dodge Viper convertible goes for $595 a day, a Hummer H2 for $349. Mia Lambright, vice president, said that her business is split between out-of-towners looking for something fun for a weekend, and local residents who want to celebrate special occasions.
"Probably 75 percent of the calls I get are from women," said Florida Exotic Car Rental manager Roshan Solay. "Wives wanting to surprise their husbands for a birthday or an anniversary. A lot of our rentals are given as presents, and the Christmas season is one of our busiest times. The vast majority of us can't afford a $200,000 car, but most can afford to rent something special for a day or two, just to experience it."
They'll let you experience a Bentley Continental Flying Spur for $995 a day, or a Lotus Elise for $395 a day, or a massive yellow Hummer H1 for $495 a day.
Solay said he sees a substantial percentage of repeat customers, some of whom come back for a favorite -- "We have one customer who has rented the same Dodge Viper four or five times." Others try out different vehicles. He also gets some customers interested in buying an exotic, who want to see how the car fits.
"You typically aren't going to get lengthy test drives from a Ferrari dealer," Solay said, "so the only way to try one out for any length of time may be to rent one."
Obviously, renting an exotic means jumping through a certain number of hoops. "We don't turn away that many people," said Lambright of Exotic Dream Car Rental, "because they can see outside the type of car we rent, and they know that coming in."
Still, she sees the occasional moon-eyed teenager, heartbroken when they learn minimum age for renting at Exotic Dream Car Rental is 25.
Lehmann-Haupt of Gotham Dream Cars said the clientele for his Florida agency is different from New York.
"In Florida, we get a lot more travelers, a lot more people from outside the country. They'll call and say, 'I'm coming in for the weekend for a big party, and I need a Ferrari at my hotel.' In New York, we get more local customers, people driving to Atlantic City or the Hamptons for a weekend."
All the agencies agree that the most requested vehicles are those brands we immediately associate with exotics -- Ferraris and Lamborghinis.
"Definitely the top two," Lehmann-Haupt said. "That's why we have four Ferraris and six Lamborghinis. It's what people want to drive, and it's certainly what I wanted to drive when I got into this business."
In fact, he started Gotham Dream Cars with a single rental vehicle -- a Ferrari 360.
Also popular at a handful of agencies are vintage cars. Locally, Skyview Exotic Cars rents out a 1951 Jaguar, a 1970 Plymouth Superbird and a 1968 Ford Mustang GT that is a replica of "Eleanor," the sheet-metal centerpiece in the movie Gone in 60 Seconds.
If you want to look and feel like the movie's star, Nicholas Cage, it'll cost you $1,500 a day.
But that's what the exotic-rental business is all about.
"Our job," said Florida Exotic Car Rental's Solay, "is to make dreams come true."
Sentinel Automotive Editor Steven Cole Smith can be reached at email@example.com or 407-420-5699.