To Serve a Growing Market, Car-Share Goes Custom

Stephanie Steinberg and Bill Vlasic survey the growing universe of car-sharing services. From big corporations to non-profits, the high demand for car sharing in urban areas allows a variety of alternatives to "coexist comfortably."
January 28, 2013, 10am PST | Jonathan Nettler | @nettsj
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With about two dozen car-sharing services currently operating in the United States, the growing rental universe is far from homogenous. From Smart cars fleets that charge customers by the minute and allow for one-way rentals and free street parking to industry stalwarts that offer numerous rental locations and a wide variety of automobiles, "rental providers are trying to differentiate themselves" to attract a share of the 800,000 people who belonged to car-sharing services in the United States last year, report Steinberg and Vlasic.

What explains the rise in car-sharing, and its many variants?

“There’s a trend in general for people wanting to pay for what they use,” said Car2go’s chief executive, Nicholas Cole. “It’s like the success in iTunes, where people choose to buy a few songs instead of the whole album.”

"The need for cheap, convenient mobility is fueling the growth of car sharing around the world, said Susan Shaheen, co-director of the Transportation Sustainability Research Center at the University of California, Berkeley. She said that recent statistics showed 1.7 million car-sharing members in 27 countries, not including so-called peer-to-peer services that allow drivers to rent vehicles directly from individual car owners."

"A menu of mobility options works for some consumers, like Michelle Fox, a 27-year-old executive of a technology company in Washington. Ms. Fox recently sold her Toyota S.U.V. because of the cost of car payments, insurance and parking."

"Instead, she uses a combination of Car2go, a bicycle-sharing network and the Uber call-a-limo service."

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Published on Friday, January 25, 2013 in The New York Times
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