As the aftershock from this spring's auto-sector implosion continues to roil the market, questions are starting to swirl about the stability of rental-fleet securitizations. The deals most in question are those in which General Motors and Ford Motor Co. have promised to buy back vehicles from the rental companies, as the financial strength of those manufacturers will dictate whether they have the buying power to honor their repurchase agreements. While that strength seems to be deteriorating rapidly, rating agency officials said there is little to worry about - for now.
Auto manufacturers often sell program vehicles to auto rental companies with the agreement to buy the vehicles back from the rental companies at a specified time. The agreements benefit the rental companies by alleviating the risk that they will be unable to get rid of the vehicles when they are no longer needed for renting. The agreements also benefit the manufacturers because the rental vehicles are a source of free advertising and guarantee them access to a consistent stock of their own used vehicles at a preset time and price.