Willow Run Airport

Remember when … there was no such concept as a rental car company being based at an airport? We bet many individuals born in the 1930’s remember those days. While the rental car industry started before World War I, the first rental car operation designed for airports wasn’t until after World War II. 

Downtown rental cars were the default practice until 1946 when Warren Avis opened Avis Airlines Rent-A-Car. Originally, the idea of having rental cars at airports was panned.

Nobody thought it would work. – Warren Avis

Just where did the very first airport-based rental car operation start? Not some major commercial operation we would recognize today but instead the metropolis of Ypsilanti, Michigan, at the Willow Run Airport. Mr. Avis was a member of the Army Air Corps and the airport itself had an important role in World War II – it’s where Henry Ford collaborated with the U.S. government to build more than 8,600 B-24 Liberator aircraft.

First Avis Airport Location

Airport rental cars began here.

Mr. Avis himself? We still know his name today from the rental car company he founded. However, he was one of the original serial entrepreneurs. He sold his car rental operation in 1954, tried to buy it back in 1985, and was the primary source of business inspiration for Shark Tank’s Robert Herjavec before passing away in 2007.

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