Travelers wait long lines, pay more as global microchip shortage cuts new car production, deals blow to car rental companies

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When the pandemic first hit, demand for rental cars plummeted, forcing rental companies to park thousands of cars in lots such as the Santa Anita racetrack parking lot, shown in April 2020. Many of those cars were later sold.(Robert Gauthier / Los Angeles Times)

When the pandemic first hit, demand for rental cars plummeted, forcing rental companies to park thousands of cars in lots such as the Santa Anita racetrack parking lot, shown in April 2020. Many of those cars were later sold.(Robert Gauthier / Los Angeles Times)

On a trip to visit Disneyland with his children, John Jimenez of San Jose reserved a compact car from Dollar Rent a Car at Los Angeles International Airport. What he got when he landed was a headache.

Due to a vehicle shortage, the car rental agency offered him a van that he said reeked of cigarettes and marijuana instead of a compact car. Jimenez refused the malodorous van, and after a more than two-hour wait he settled for another van with more than 60,000 miles, visible body damage and a “musty odor” that seemed to come from the air conditioning system.

“The area where the compact cars were was empty,” he said, adding that he has demanded a full refund.

A global microchip shortage that has cut production of new cars continues to deal a heavy blow to car rental companies, but most of the pain is being felt by travelers such as Jimenez who find themselves waiting in long lines, paying nearly double the rates of earlier this year, getting denied the vehicle they reserved or ending up driving away in a car with lots of extra wear and tear.

Read the full story on LATimes.com.

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