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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.

Pelosi's Republican playbook

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

As Republicans fight among themselves, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) is showing the myriad ways she deals with the GOP herself.

Between the lines: We've seen Pelosi cut opponents off at the knees, like she did with President Trump, or pretend to forget their names, as she did to Sen. Ron Johnson (R-Wis.). Now she's feeding oppo research against her House counterpart, Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.), so others can use the same harsh rhetoric to frame the Republicans as the party of dysfunction.

Exclusive: Houston mayor to lead Black mayors group

Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner speaks during a private funeral for George Floyd. Photo: Godofredo A. Vásquez/Pool/Getty Images

The mayor of the city where George Floyd was raised is taking over a group that represents 500 Black mayors in the U.S. amid national pressure to revamp police departments.

Why it matters: Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner will become the new president of the African American Mayors Association as municipalities across the country examine police reforms and deal with the economic fallout from the pandemic.