Press Sighting: The Bergen County Record

December 17, 2008

logo_the_record.jpgThe Bergen Record has a nice little write-up covering some background on GDC.  They also gave a nice mention to the Break The Code promotion we're running for Toys for Tots at the Riverside Mall.  From the article, "Q. A lot of wives do this as a surprise present. Are most of the husbands, like Ted Kennedy, relieved to hear the car is just rented?  A.  Very. The conversation usually goes like this, "Oh, my God, did you buy this?" Then she says, "No, no, it's just a rental." Then he goes, "Oh, then I love you. Thank you."  Full article below...


Dream machines power rental model

Wednesday, December 17, 2008 
Last updated: Wednesday December 17, 2008, 7:44 AM

BY JOAN VERDON


STAFF WRITER


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When Noah Lehmann-Haupt founded Gotham Dream Cars in 2004, he had to resist the urge to play with his assets — Lamborghinis, Ferraris, Aston Martins and other luxury "super cars." Now, the business has grown to the point where there's much more work, and less time for play. But Lehmann-Haupt, 30, has personally test-driven all 21 cars in the company's fleet, valued at more than $4 million.


 



COURTESY OF GOTHAM DREAM CARS


Noah Lehmann-Haupt, founder of Gotham Dream Cars in Hasbrouck Heights.


The company, which has a garage and showroom in Hasbrouck Heights, rents luxury cars, at prices starting at $895 a day. It also offers "Dream Tours," a chance to drive six different vehicles. Gotham is reaching out to affluent car aficionados in North Jersey this month with a display of a Saleen S7 sports car and a "Win a Dream Tour" promotion at The Shops at Riverside in Hackensack. Lehmann-Haupt said Riverside has the perfect demographics for his rental cars — with shoppers wealthy enough to afford a luxury rental, but not so affluent that they don't visit malls.

Lehmann-Haupt got an early start on entrepreneurship, co-founding a financial software company, TruExchange, while a senior at Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Gotham Dream Cars rents 40 cars a month in the Northeast and Florida. It has rented to grooms on their wedding day, to wives looking for anniversary gifts, and to celebrities. He spoke with The Record about his driving passion for the business. (Interview condensed for space.)

Q. Your publicist reminded me that our paths crossed 16 years ago, when you were 13 and I interviewed you for an article for CoinAge magazine. I remember you, but I don't remember why I was interviewing you. What were you doing back then?

My parents, being proud parents, have the article framed in my bedroom at home. The article was called "A Young Rarity." I had started a newsletter. I did a whole bunch of crazy stuff for young coin collectors back then.

Q. Were you into sports cars and racing before you started Gotham?

I wouldn't say I was obsessed with sports cars the way I was into coins when I was younger. It was a passing fancy. I liked cars. When I was at TruExchange, I bought my first car, a Volkswagen Jetta, and learned about souping it up and doing all that.

Q. Gotham was inspired by you trying to rent a luxury vehicle. Were you trying to rent one for a purpose, or just to drive yourself?

There was one of these cross-country rallies that I wanted to participate in. I wanted to get a sponsorship and do it in a Lamborghini.

Q. What made you want to do that?

I'd read about these cross-country rallies and it seemed like a fun thing to do. I had discovered how much fun it was to go on drives with other car enthusiasts. I thought, "Hmm, maybe it would be interesting to do a cross-country drive and I don't want to take my Jetta, maybe I'll go rent a Lamborghini." When I started to actually research it, I realized there were no places where you could rent the car that I wanted to rent. And I said that's crazy. America's the land of opportunity. If you want to rent a $200,000 sports car, doggone it, you should be able to do it.

And then the magic moment happened when I found this Web site that tracks what other people are searching for on Google. What I discovered was that between 50 and 75 people a month were searching for the phrase "Ferrari rental, New York." And there were zero results. Once I discovered that I said, "Wait a second, if 50 to 75 people a month are checking the Internet to rent a Ferrari in New York, I don't need 50 people a month to rent a car, I only need five or 10." So I'm willing to take those odds.

Q. The first car in the fleet was a Ferrari?

It was a Ferrari 360 Modena.

Q. Did you have to buy that outright?

I did. I got a loan from friends of the family. I got a $150,000 loan that I used to buy the car and have a little bit of working capital and that got us started. Ever since then, we've been able to finance through traditional bank loans all the rest of the cars in our fleet.

Q. What are good roads near here to drive a Lamborghini on?

In the New York area, some of the best roads are up on Bear Mountain. They're twisty, back and forth, really fun.

Q. I saw on your Web site the photo of you, the Aston Martin and Ted Kennedy and his wife.

That was probably my favorite rental that we've ever done. Mrs. [Victoria] Kennedy called up and said, "I want to get him a fun 75th birthday present. Let's get him an Aston Martin for the weekend." I delivered it personally and took him for a spin around the block.

Q. You delivered it to Washington?

Yes. On a truck. Unloaded it right in front of his residence. He was stunned and said, "Did you buy this for me?" Victoria said, "No, It's just for the weekend." They went out to their country home in Virginia, drove down for the weekend.

Q. A lot of wives do this as a surprise present. Are most of the husbands, like Ted Kennedy, relieved to hear the car is just rented?

Very. The conversation usually goes like this, "Oh, my God, did you buy this?" Then she says, "No, no, it's just a rental." Then he goes, "Oh, then I love you. Thank you."

Q. What car do you drive every day?

It's an Infiniti G35 mid-size sedan. I like to come home to the car next door, as we like to call it. My day-to-day car is very comfortable and relaxing and easy to drive.

E-mail: verdon@northjersey.com
Original story:  http://www.northjersey.com/business/Dream_machines_power_rental_model.html?page=all

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