Tourists load up their hire car at Malaga Airport. / SUR

Concern on the Costa del Sol over a shortage of hire cars, just as the sector is starting to recover

The problem has occurred because companies had to sell vehicles in order to keep going during the pandemic and now there are not enough new cars for them to buy

Pilar Martínez
PILAR MARTÍNEZ

Just as the peak tourist season is beginning, there is considerable concern on the Costa del Sol over a lack of cars available for hire.

The president of the Aescva Association of Rental Vehicle Companies, Ana María García, is warning that the current fleet is only half the size it was before the pandemic and that the rental firms are in a difficult position. They had to sell a lot of their cars during the pandemic to limit the damage caused to their businesses, but now that they want to replace them they are finding there are very few available due to the shortage of microchips.

This combination of circumstances will mean that some tourists who come to the Costa del Sol may find it impossible or difficult to hire a car and doing so will also be more expensive.

The situation could hit the Costa particularly hard because 80 per cent of all cars rented in Andalucía are in Malaga province, says Ana María García.

Fewer cars to buy

She explains that hire car businesses were forced to sell off part of their fleets after the pandemic began because they needed the money to enable them to keep going. Now, she says, the companies are getting ready for the expected recovery in tourism but have come up against this problem. The dealers only have a limited number of cars to sell and prefer to reserve them for private buyers.

"It is a big problem because this summer the number of tourists is expected to be similar to 2019, but we only have half as many cars as we did then and can't buy as many as we need. There are already bookings coming in and we want to work and take our employees off furlough, but we don't have cars," she says.

She complains that the different authorities don't seem interested in finding solutions to ensure that tourists can get around, and says more people decide to hire a car these days because they want to tour and see Andalucía's most famous attractions.

"The negative effect of this is going to be felt far beyond the Costa del Sol. Other places in Andalucía are going to feel the impact as well. Nobody has shown any interest in this situation, even though it began many months ago when the car manufacturers started to have difficulty obtaining microchips from China because of supply problems, and I believe we are all important in the tourism chain," she says.

The other downside is that the cost of renting a car could double because fewer vehicles are available and demand is high during the peak season.

Never happened before

García says she has never known anything like this. "There has never been a situation like this one before. After two years with no tourists, now we can finally work normally again this has happened," she says.

The shortage of hire cars is a matter of concern for the whole of the tourism sector. The president of the Aehcos hotel association on the Costa del Sol, José Luque, says it is worrying because it is important to many tourists to be able to get around and explore while they are here.

"We are really worried because we can see a summer ahead with a huge demand from tourists and not enough cars for them to rent," he says.

The whole tourism sector is watching keenly to see what happens this Easter, as a way of predicting what could occur in the summer.