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SOUTHLAND BUSINESS

Rental Company Has Odd Problem With Exotic Cars

March 22, 1987|CARRIE BROWN

Avon Rent-A-Car is feeling a pinch these days on the exotic models in its fleet.

It's not replacing the $8,500 grill on the Rolls Royce that's the most costly or bothersome, or the $4,360 set of wheels and tires for the Porsche Carrera, but the $1 frame on the license plate.

"We go through 400 a month. That's 4,800 frames a year," said Stuart Silver, president of the Los Angeles-based company, which also rents "regular" cars such as Dodge Colts. "I guess people take them off because they want everyone to think it's their car. The Dodge Colts, LTDs, Alliances come back with frames.

They don't touch regular cars, just exotic cars." The frame, which has Avon's name printed on it, is the only clue that the car has been rented.

It has been a problem for Avon, one of the largest independent car rental companies in California, since it started renting the exotic models eight years ago, Silver said.

People do more than just remove the license plate frame from the cars, whose daily rental rate may be as much as $239 (for a Rolls-Royce) to $700 (for a Lamborghini), Silver said.

"We find stickers in the car saying 'No Smoking in My Car' and 'Keep Your Hands Off My Porsche,' " Silver said.

In the case of a Maserati, one man had even added a plaque that read "Custom Made for Arthur."

"We rent to the person around 30 years old who works 9 to 5 as an executive and just wants to drive a Mercedes, BMW or Ferrari for the weekend," said Silver. These he calls the "weeked warriors."

Others in Avon's pricey-car clientele include "the person who wants an exotic car to go to the prom (Avon rents to 18-year-olds), businessmen who are closing a big deal and want to drive up in a Mercedes," and then there's "the guy who's going through 'menopause,' wearing a gold chain and button-down shirt."

How is Avon handling the elitist vandalism? "We figured to save some money on frames, we'd put four extra bolts on, the hard-to-screw kind. They just broke them right off," Silver said. "We kinda gave up. We figured if our customers want them (off), they can have them."

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