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General Motors is gearing up to begin recalling 1.6-million cars for faulty ignition switches, and in preparation, it has struck deals with rental car agencies Enterprise, Avis and Hertz to reserve thousands of loaner vehicles to serve affected customers. The company has even dropped its policy to only rent out GM models from the current or previous year, which means some owners will likely be driving competitors' cars during the repair.

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It's the hurdle that electric vehicles must clear to be launched into the mainstream: range anxiety. But this time it isn't prospective customers who worry about running out of juice, Bloomberg reports, but renters who return to car rental agencies before their lease is up and trade their EVs in for more traditional gasoline-powered autos and gas-electric hybrids.

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The Toyota Prius Plug-in Hybrid was the top selling plug-in hybrid vehicle in the United Kingdom, with 470 sold since being introduced to the market in July 2012. That means the Prius Plug-in Hybrid outsold the Vauxhall Ampera plug-in hybrid, Toyota says. The sales lead happened even though the Ampera was launched in the UK market three months earlier than the PHEV Prius. The Ampera is GM's European version of the Chevrolet Volt.

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Rental cars get no respect. They're abused, misused and flogged mercilessly as athletes in Rental Car Olympics. And that's just at your everyday airport rental counter. The torture gets extreme for rental cars thrashed around Germany's infamous Nürburgring.

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More than 70 complaints filed against Vancouver, B.C. outlet

Customers of Budget Rent a Car have accused the rental car company of bilking them of hundreds of dollars for minor repairs, which were then allegedly made in house.

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Bowing to pressure from consumers and advocacy groups, major car rental companies have agreed to end the practice of renting cars that have been recalled for safety problems.

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Car rental giant Hertz is in the process of purchasing Dollar Thrifty. The deal is said to be for $2.3 billion, according to an Associated Press report. As a result, Dollar Thrifty stock increased by seven percent in trading before the market opened today.

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"Fleet" is sort of a dirty word when describing vehicle sales, and the Detroit Three have traditionally been quite smitten with bulk buyers. Unfortunately fleet sales have been demonized for a reason. They can adversely affect resale values, and since fleet buyers tend to expect warehouse store pricing, they're obviously not great for the bottom line, either. But one automaker seems more than happy to sell to fleets: Ford.

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In the rental car industry, if a vehicle is on the lot it isn't making any money. The same is true for any vehicle in the shop for repairs, including vehicles that are recalled by automakers. That has created a bit of a conundrum for rental car companies, and the drive for profits can lead to vehicles getting rented that should be getting repaired.

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Recalls can be a big problem for car rental companies. The companies make money by renting as many vehicles in advance as possible, and an entirely booked fleet can be a recipe for profits. But what happens when there is a recall on a car or truck that is already scheduled for rental? Does the rental company call the customer and tell them that their order can no longer be fulfilled? In some cases, the rental company may want to wait until the vehicle isn't needed to get the problem looked at, w

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According to a report from The Detroit News, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has opened an investigation into how quickly rental car companies repair vehicles affected by recalls. The process is simple for individual consumers – receive a recall notice, schedule an appointment with a dealership, bada-bing, bada-boom, fixed – but when it comes to the fleets of vehicles parked on rental lots, it's a much larger ordeal.

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All-Electric Coda Sedan – Click above for high-res image gallery

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Shaun Stenshol and a Bio-Beetle – Click above for high-res image gallery

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Good news, rental car fans – Hertz has managed to expand its operations by over 1,500 locations. The company has reportedly just agreed to snatch up Dollar Thrifty car rental in a $1.17 billion deal that included both cash and Hertz stock. According to USA Today, that figure values Dollar Thrifty shares at a 5.5 percent premium over what the company's stock had been trading for recently.

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Just how clean are rental cars? – Click above to watch the video after the jump

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While most automakers are reporting double-digit drops in sales each month, Hyundai and Kia continue to swim against the current and maintain (or even increase) units sold. According to Automotive News, a significant part of their success is attributable to fleet sales – large numbers of cars going directly into rental and corporate fleets. During the first quarter of 2009 alone, more than 33 percent of Hyundai's first quarter sales of 95,854 units were fleet related. Rental car sales repr

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Last October we advised you not to hold your breath for Daimler's Car2Go program to come to America. You can breathe again. If you live in Austin, Texas you'll be able to rent a mild hybrid Smart ForTwo by the minute this fall. Austin was chosen because of its university population and its concern for the environment.

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Last summer, it was the Detroit Three that were restraining themselves from dumping cars into the gaping maw of fleet sales just to boost the bottom line. Turns out they had some help with that discipline: Due to last year's events, rental car fleets shrunk by 400,000 units from 2007 to 2008. As we begin 2009, rental car companies have declared they will be trimming their fleet orders and curbing the number of vehicles they keep on hand even further.

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A busted car theft ring has turned up a vintage Cadillac once owned by one of the Magnificent Seven. The five-finger-discount drivers out of Colorado, headed by Jeffrey Earle Piper, would steal expensive rental cars, change their VIN numbers and "sell" them. The new "owner", who was in on the whole thing, would then report "his" car stolen and collect on the insurance policy. One of the cars found among the loot: a $133,000 1959 Cadillac – looks like a Series 62 convertible – that on

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There has been a longstanding tradition among car rental agencies to push renters up to bigger, more expensive models. Not that it was all that difficult to do, considering that Americans tend to prefer larger vehicles when all other aspects are equal. Now, though, not all of those aspects are equal, as bigger vehicles are usually thirstier vehicles and the renter is required to return the vehicle with a full tank of gas. So, the act of stepping up to a Hemi-powered Dodge Charger from a four-ban

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OK, this seems like a no-brainer. As GM and Ford have gradually pulled back from the low-margin fleet sales market, import fleet sales have surged. After all, somebody has to keep the rental car lots filled. It's mostly been the mainline Asian automakers that have stepped in to fill the void. Toyota, Nissan, Mazda and Kia have all increased their corporate sales of cars and trucks, but they still remain bit players overall. About 11 percent of U.S. import brand sales are to fleets so far this ye

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