Before Warren Avis, if you flew somewhere, you had to take a taxi to the main part of town if you wanted to rent a car. Taxis, of course, were expensive and you might not always be able to get one, especially since you would need to take one back to the airport, too. In 1946, he founded Avis Rent A Car System to solve this very problem; it was the first rental car company to have locations at airports, making it easier for people to have accessible, personal transportation while on vacation or business trips.
Warren Avis realized there was a need for this type of service when he was an Air Force officer in World War II. As a bomber, he actually carried his transportation with him; he loaded a motorcycle into the bay of the bomber. When they landed somewhere, he could use the motorcycle to zoom into town. He soon decided that if he had this need, other people must have it, too.
When he started proposing the idea, people thought he was crazy. For one, he had to persuade the airline companies that it was a good idea, as he had to have space on or very near airline property. Also, he required quite a bit of space to store all the cars. As he begun to develop his plan, he bought part of a Ford dealership in Detroit to help stock his new rental company with cars. One of his goals was to create a rental company that was much higher quality than the ones already on the market, which he found to be dirty and greasy.
Avis opened his first location near Detroit, Michigan in 1946 at Willow Run Airport in Ypsilanti, Michigan. It was soon followed by a location in Miami at Miami International Airport. Because sites were located at airports, they allowed businessmen to take one-day trips, since they no longer had to spend time taxiing back and forth from the airport to the rental company; the extra taxiing had often required them to spend the night. Therefore, the company grew by leaps and bounds, as customers soon realized how convenient this new service was. In just ten years, it was one of the largest rental companies in the nation.
Avis went on to build a million-dollar company. In fact, though he began the company with just $10,000 from his savings, he sold the company for $8,000,000 in 1954 (which would be a little less than $70,000,000 in today’s dollars). As a businessman, he continued this trend through most of his life; he continued to buy and sell businesses, as he quickly grew tired of certain industries.
Warren Avis was born in Bay City, Michigan in 1915, and he died 92 years later in Ann Arbor, Michigan on April 24, 2007. Because of his initiative and pioneering spirit, he was elected into the Automotive Hall of Fame