DCX rental fleet sales tumble

Dollar Thrifty Automotive Group Inc., which buys most of its rental cars from the Chrysler group, has significantly reduced the size of its fleet, said the company's CEO.

Joe Cappy, a former vice president of Chrysler Corp., said Dollar Thrifty's business has rebounded from the 40 percent to 60 percent plunge it took immediately after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks but is still off by about 15 percent to 20 percent.

To compensate, the Tulsa, Okla., based company, which buys 80 percent to 90 percent of its vehicles from the Chrysler group, has downsized its fleet from the 60,000 to 65,000 it had in the fourth quarter of 2000 to about 55,000. Cappy said he expects the reduced business to carry through the fourth quarter and the first half of next year.

"All rental car companies have significantly reduced their fleets," said Cappy, who also served as CEO of the now-defunct American Motors.

Chrysler group spokesman Mike Roseau said the company did not have strong fleet sales in September and October but declined to elaborate.

Cappy said his company has purchased a 135,000 2002 model year vehicles compared with 147,000 last year. He said 80 percent of the vehicles his company buys are program vehicles sold to the manufacturer after six to 18 months.

The economic slowdown had cut into the company's business even before the terrorist attacks. Third-quarter profits of $6 million were an 83 percent decline from the $36 million the company earned during the third quarter last year.

Cappy said the company's plan prior to Sept. 11 was to go into the fourth quarter with a 5 percent reduction of its fleet.

Dollar Thrifty Automotive owns Dollar Rent A Car and Thrifty Car Rental. Both companies get most of their business from airline travelers.

You can reach Arlena Sawyers at asawyers@crain.com

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