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Warren Edward Avis (1915-2007)
Born in Bay City, Mich., first to introduce rental cars at airports.
Added April, 2014.

Early Avis Car Rental

Warren E. Avis is among Michgan's most outstanding and prominent business men who changed the world of aviation introducing the first car rental business at airports. It was going to happen eventually, but Avis did it first.

Mr. Avis was born on August 4, 1915, to Edward J. and Lottie (Wolf) Avis, in Bay City, Michigan, where he was educated in the common schools, graduating from Central High School in 1933. The family homestead was at 202 Garfield Street, just south of Columbus Avenue. It later was turned into an apartment complex..

Avis' early career began as a sales man for a drug company, the working for the Michigan Department of Investigation where he was an agent investigating auto dealership. When WWII broke out, he enlisted in the U.S Army Air Corps, serving from 1945-46. He flew 50 combat missions and was a major in air intelligence operations. He was highly honored for outstanding achievements, that earned him the Bronze Star and Distinguished Flying Cross, among others.

After the war Avis returned to Michigan, where in started a Ford dealership in Southfield, near Detroit, Michigan. In 1946 he started his car rental business at Willow Run Airport, where he started the first car rental service, an idea he developed from his experience at military airports. The airline industry was making rapid gains as the carrier of choice for traveling long distances, and Avis' timing couldn't have been better. The business was an instant winner and doing so well that he started second one at Miami Airport.

Hertz, the largest car rental business at the time, was slow to follow Avis' lead, which allowed Avis to increase his business without any competition. The Avis Rent A Car business surged and Avis was quickly on his way to becoming a multi-millionaire. By 1954, Avis was developing an interest in other businesses, and that year he sold the car rental business to financier Richard S. Robie for $7.4 million. Avis kept himself busy with his new businesses of Avis Enterprises, Avis Sports, Inc. and in Avis Farms, a real estate business in Ann Arbor, Michigan, where he had his residence and business headquarters. He also had a residence in Manhattan and a vacation home in Acapulco.

Avis was a true entrepreneur, he enjoyed dealing primarily with expanding his businesses, leaving management of them to qualified individuals. He enjoyed the life that his success brought to him, and had many friendships with other notable business men and entertainers.

In 2000, Avis was recognized for his business savy and achievements by the automobile industry being elected into the Automobile Hall of Fame, located in Dearborn, Michigan.

Mr. Avis authored several books, the most popular being, “Take A Chance to be First,” published in 1985, which offers insight for entrepreneurs based on his approach in developing a successful business.

Mr. Avis died at his home in Ann Arbor. His remains were taken to Bay City and buried at the family burial site located in Elm Lawn Cemetery on Ridge Road, which is the final resting place for many of this city’s highly successful businessmen. Surving him was his second wife, Yanna (Elbim), a french born actress, whom he married in 1981, and three children from his first marriage: daughter Wendy, and two sons, Wayne and Warren E., Jr.

I had difficulty finding the name of his Mr. Avis' first whom he he divorced in 1981. However, I came across the obituary of his son Warren Edward Avis Jr posted on February 4, 2012, which mentions him as the sun of Susan Packer Bauman, of Palm Beach (Florida) and Warren Edward Avis Sr. of Michigan.

Avis Family Plot, Elm Lawn Cemetery.

Addition Notes:

    1876 – Michigan Births: Alpena, Aplena, Mich.
    Edward J. Avis, born Jan. 7, 1876, son of John Avis and Rosanna Avis.

    1902 – Michigan Marriages: Bay City, Bay, Mich.
    Edward Avis to Lottie Wolf on Feb. 11, 1901.

    1916 – Directory – Bay City, Mich.
    Avis, Edward J. - (Lottie M.) h202 Garfield Ave.
    Avis, Edward J., Jr. - USN, r202 Garfield Ave.
    Avis, Worthy L – hlpr, h205 ½ 3d.

    1930 – Census: Onaway, Presque Isle, Mich.
    Avis, Edward J. - b. 1877, Mich.
    Lottie, M., wife – b. 1881, Mich.
    Dorothy A., daughter – b. 1912, Mich.
    Warren E., son – b. 1916, Mich.
    Edward F., son – b. 1928, Mich.

    1946 – Avis Rent A Car History.
    Founded by Warren Avis at Williow Run Airport in Detroit with an investment of $85,000, which was the first car rental at an airport. Soon afterward the company opened another at Miami Airport.

    1954 – Company sold for $8 million to Boston financier Richard S. Robie.

    1981 – New York Times.
    Warren E. Avis married Yanna Elbim, on Jan. 3, 1981, in Acapulco, Mexico. The Roman Catholic wedding was performed at their home in Casa La Barranca. Yanna Elim is the daughter of Dr. and Mrs. Alexandre Elbim of Paris.

    2000 – Inducted into the Automobile Hall of Fame.

Other Sources:

    Bay City's Warren Avis, Car Rental Pioneer, Leaves Legacy of Positive Ideas., by Dave Rogers [MyBayCity.com]

    Avis tells his own story: [YouTube]

    Further information, including Mr. Avis’ obituary and guest book may be found at this web link: [Legacy.com]

Related Notes & Pages

Warren E. Avis

Warren & 2d wife, Yanna

Related Pages:
None at this time.
People Referenced
Avis, Dorothy (sis)
Avis, Edward F. (bro)
Avis, Edward J. (father)
Avis, John (g-father)
Avis, Rosanna Mrs. (g-mother)
Avis, Warren E. (subject)
Avis, Warren E. Jr. (son)
Avis, Wayne (son)
Avis, Wendy (dau)
Avis, Worthy L.
Elbim, Alexandre (f-inlaw)
Elbim, Yanna (2-wife)
Packer, Susan (1-wife)
Robie, Richard S.
Wolf, Lottie (mother)
Subjects Referenced
Adrian, MI
Ann Arbor, MI
Automobile Hall of Fame
Avis Enterprises
Avis Farms
Avis Rent A Car
Avis Sports Inc.
Bay City, MI
Bronze Star
Central High School
Dearborn, MI
Detroit, MI
Elm Lawn Cemetery
Dist. Flying Cross
Ford dealership
Manhatten, NY
Miami Airport, FL
Mich. Dept. Investigations
onaway, MI
Palm Beach, FL
Presque Isle, MI
Southfield, MI
US Army Air Corps
Willow Run Airport

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