David Taylor of Transit Rent-A-Car said his vehicle fleet that used to be around 20 now sits at a half-dozen.
He said he reduced his fleet when the pandemic all but eliminated his customer base.
But now with COVID-19-related restrictions loosening and more people travelling, he said he’s frustrated because he doesn’t have enough vehicles and can’t restock.
“The demand has increased but the fleet level hasn’t,” Taylor said. “And for us to even attempt to recoup or increase our inventory levels, (it is) very difficult during this period of time.”
At least one industry expert believes it’s a worldwide issue that may get worse as vacation travel picks up.
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Associated Canadian Car Rental Operators spokesman Craig Hirota said most of the major players in the vehicle rental industry also shed numbers rather than having vehicles sit unused for months.
He said car companies are stuck in neutral thanks to a shortage of computer chips necessary for new car production. That means vehicles are being made at a slower rate with demand outpacing supply.
“All of the major brands are working very closely with the manufacturers to try and work on getting supply,” Hirota said. “But it’s an ongoing challenge that, right now, is placing additional stress on our industry.”
CAA Atlantic Vice President of Communications Gary Howard says anyone hoping to book travel with a rental vehicle should make their plans as early as possible.
But he also said some rental companies may be able to adjust in the short-term by sending vehicles they already have to markets where the demand is especially high.
“You know, you can’t move a hotel, but you can move cars,” Howard said. “So the fleets, they’ll add more vehicles, but they’ll also be moving vehicles around. So I’m confident that the industry and car rental side of the business will be ready for the demand.”
Taylor believes it may be a while before his lot is full again.
“What I’ve gathered in talking to other people in the industry, inventory levels might not return to normal until the fourth quarter of 2022,” he said.
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