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Illustration: Rebecca Zisser/Axios

The rental car scramble — and the leap in prices — is a huge consumer headache, but it's paying off for car rental companies.

Why it matters: The pummeled industry is staging a stunning comeback, thanks to pent-up travel demand and increasingly hard-to-find rental cars.

What they're saying: "Put those two things together and it's understandable that prices will be impacted upwards," Avis Budget CFO Brian Choi said Tuesday.

  • Stripping out expenses, Avis Budget — one of the world's largest rental car companies that also owns Zipcar — reported its best first quarter in six years.

Flashback: Rental car companies sold off car inventory when the pandemic hit and travel shriveled.  

  • Now they want to restock to meet demand. But the chip shortage makes that hard. Auto production has been severely hampered, so rental firms can't get all the new cars they want to replenish depleted fleets.
  • The companies are bidding on used cars, "uncharted territory" for players like Hertz and Enterprise, which typically buy new vehicles in bulk, Bloomberg reported.
  • The coming summer travel explosion — paired with low depreciation costs — are “much more than sufficient” to make up for the rental companies' higher car-purchase costs, Morgan Stanley's Adam Jonas told Reuters.

The intrigue: As the car rental market has returned so has investor interest in bankrupt Hertz.

Go deeper

Column / Harder Line

To combat climate change, electric cars have to be cheaper

Illustration: Rae Cook/Axios

Most drivers of electric cars are wealthy, and most electric cars are luxury.

Why it matters: To effectively combat climate change, the opposite needs to happen: electric cars need to become affordable and broadly appealing so the masses can and want to buy them. Only with mass adoption will heat-trapping emissions steeply decline in America’s most polluting sector.

$1.2 trillion "hard" infrastructure bill clears major procedural vote in Senate

Photo: Kevin Dietsch/Getty Images

The Senate voted 67-32 on Wednesday to advance the bipartisan $1.2 trillion infrastructure bill.

Why it matters: After weeks of negotiating, portions of the bill remain unwritten, but the Senate can now start debating the legislation to resolve outstanding issues.

Fed chair says he isn't concerned by Delta surge

Fed Chairman Jerome Powell at the G20 finance ministers and central bankers meeting in Venice last month. Photo: Andreas Solaro/AFP via Getty Images

One of the country's most influential economic officials doesn't anticipate that surging coronavirus cases will knock the reopening recovery off course.

What he's saying: "There has tended to be less economic implications from each [coronavirus] wave. We'll see if that's the case for the Delta variety," Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell told reporters today.