The Avis/Budget car rental businesses have apparently left Decatur, according to the companies’ websites.
Over the past month, a sign on the door at the unoccupied offices at 1600 Sixth Ave. S.E. has said: “This location is closed due to unforeseen events and will reopen soon.”
However, the social media pages of the businesses say, “Permanently closed.” Decatur-area motorists wanting to rent a vehicle via the Avis/Budget corporate website are directed to the Huntsville International Airport rental location, 12 miles away.
Avis corporate headquarters did not respond to an email requesting a comment.
Mayor Tab Bowling said he is disappointed to hear the rental agencies have left.
“The Huntsville airport has strong demand and with FBI bringing in 14,000 agents each year for conferences, they need cars over there,” he said. “Thankfully, we have Hertz and Enterprise still here and maybe Avis/Budget will come back soon. We’re growing in Decatur and have a need.”
Crystal Brown, president of the Decatur Morgan County Chamber of Commerce, also is hoping the rental agencies will return.
“It’s been a business staple along Sixth Avenue,” she said. “I know it’s been an extremely difficult business since the COVID pandemic hit. It’s unfortunate they have left. It is disappointing not just for the large number of business travelers we have in town, but for our leisure travelers who rent vehicles.”
Industry experts said many rental agencies sold off large portions of their fleets when business dried up in March 2020 when COVID restrictions limited business and leisure travel.
A semiconductor computer chip shortage has drastically slowed the roll-off of new vehicles at automaker assembly plants.
The Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co. reported the pandemic initially slowed production of chips and then demand rose with people buying new computers and electronics to work at home.
Droughts in Taiwan, a major fire at a chip factory in Japan and power grid problems triggered by unseasonably cold weather in Texas all slowed semiconductor chip manufacturing.
Today’s new vehicles use between 50 and 150 computer chips per automobile, Taiwan Semiconductor said.
Michelle Krebs, executive analyst for Cox Automotive, said another challenge for rental agencies is their fleet purchases.
“Automakers and dealers prefer to sell vehicles to individual retail customers because there is a bigger profit in it, particularly now because prices are high,” she said.
Analysts are expecting more new vehicles will be available by November and December.