By Jim Motavalli, September 16, 2013
In terms of social media, the Tesla Model S rules. It gets by far the most mentions on Facebook, Twitter of any electric — some 49,967 of them during the one-week period from Aug. 21 to 28. It’s a buzz car, the one everybody wants and is talking about.
If I was running a rental car fleet, I’d want to have at least one Model S as the pride of the fleet, and Hertz feels the same way — it’s adding three of them to its “Dream Car” collection. The Teslas will rent for $600 a day, a relative bargain compared to the $1,500-a-day the Ferrari F430s and Lamborghini Gallardos that Hertz also rents. Other luxury cars are bargains: a Porsche 911 might be $500 a day and an AMG Mercedes $279. The first 100 miles are free, but after that you pay $1.49 a mile, and there’s a security deposit, too. Prices and requirements vary according to location.
According to Tesla's Shanna Hendriks, “We’ve seen interest from rental car companies and fleet buyers who want to provide their customers access to a high-performance sedan, which also happens to be electric.”
Hertz was already offering the Tesla Roadster, which is now out of production. Mark Frissora, Hertz’ chairman and CEO, says adding the Model S was “an easy choice” and “a thrill.” The first three cars will be available at California airports LAX in Los Angeles (one) and San Francisco's SFO (two). The company will likely add more because Hertz Dream Cars are offered in 35 markets.
It’s not surprising that one of those 35 markets is Vegas, where supercar rental fleets line the streets. Never underestimate the human urge to look like a big-time operator, at least to the valet parking guy. Hertz Las Vegas employee Riley Fairchild says that “the top-end rental business picks up when the high rollers hit town Thursday to Sunday.” They're not driving Corollas.
Speaking from experience, I can say that supercars take some experience to drive, so it’s also not surprising that Dream Cars sometimes get wrecked. A customer did $45,000 worth of damage to a Porsche Panamera recently, Fairchild said.
Incidentally, the way to make a supercar a more permanent part of your life — without actually spending $200,000 or $300,000 to buy one — is to join one of the high-end car clubs. Through them, I’ve sampled some real exotics in New York, New Jersey and Miami.
Jersey’s Vulcan Motor Club, for instance, will hand you the keys to a Mercedes-Benz SLR McLaren, a Maybach 62, or a Lamborghini LP560-4. The company had a Tesla Roadster, too, but it’s been cycled out of the fleet. At Vulcan in 2009, I drove five exotics, including an Aston Martin DB9, a Ford GT40, and that Tesla Roadster, and found the battery vehicle more more fun to drive than any other of the cars.