LAS VEGAS (AP) — There's a chance now for the middle class to feel like movie stars. Or for a movie star to feel like a movie star away from home.
In the past few years, some of the biggest car rental companies have added the finest cars money can buy to their fleets. Alongside the practical Toyotas and Fords are Ferraris, Lamborghinis, Bentleys, Aston Martins and Teslas, to name a few.
They don't come cheaply, of course. But, in some ways, that's beside the point.
"We try to sell a lifestyle, not just an exotic vehicle," said Vince Sample, location manager for Beverly Hills Rent A Car in Las Vegas. And it's one that wows: "People stop and stare. They ask, 'Can I take a picture?' They want to see if it's someone famous."
Sample's firm, which has worked with royals, famous singers and casino whales, will deliver a $900-per-day candy apple red Ferrari California or a $2,200-per-day Rolls-Royce Wraith directly to the customer. There's no license plate frame to mark it as a rental. He will even take off the dealership's keychain so customers feel it's totally theirs.
As the recession fades to a memory, independent rental companies in flashy cities such as Los Angeles, Las Vegas and Miami Beach aren't the only ones offering the high-end rides. The big firms are doing it, too, and in places less known for glamour.
Last summer, Hertz launched its Dream Cars line in 35 locations, including Pittsburgh and Milwaukee. Enterprise's Exotic Collection, which launched in Southern California, operates in 13 locations and is planning to open West Hollywood and Atlanta branches later this spring. Budget offers a range of BMWs and American sports cars in its Street Fleet and Avis has similar selection in its Signature Series, although the finest vehicles are found in the Avis Prestige collection in Europe.
Sharon Faulkner, executive director of the American Car Rental Association, said the growth in the upscale rental market differs from years past because it's no longer limited to beach and tourist towns.
Enterprise's move into the exotics market in 2006 came as customers started asking for more rarified vehicles — ones beyond the realm of the company's existing luxury collection of Lincolns and Cadillacs. Last year, the number of rental days within the exotic collection jumped 50 percent, according to Steve Short, Enterprise's vice president of leisure business development.
"There's probably some demand that was out there that wasn't being met," he said.