Car sharing is taking off

Each shared car replaces between nine and 13 privately owned cars.

carsharing 521 (photo credit: REUTERS)
carsharing 521
(photo credit: REUTERS)
In January, Avis acquired the car-sharing venture Zipcar for $500 million.
Four months later, Enterprise Rent-A-Car, which is three times as big as Avis, was also interested in joining the rapidly developing field of partnership projects, so it acquired IGO CarSharing. These car rental companies decided that they’d rather join the trendsetters than miss the boat.
There are currently an estimated 1.7 million car sharing members in 27 countries, 800,000 of whom are in the US alone. Once we are able to break free of our emotional connection with cars, it becomes quite clear that people living in cities do not really need to privately own one.
A study carried out in Munich shows that most cars in the city were used for an average of 45 minutes a day. In other words, for 23¼ hours a day, these cars were sitting idle, losing value. And when you add to this the high insurance rates, it becomes quite obvious that cars are not cost effective. And on top of that, many people need to pay for parking spaces, too.
Another recent study shows that in 2001, after six decades of consecutive increases in the average total mileage that Americans covered annually, this trend has finally reversed. From 2004 to 2012, it actually decreased by 6%.
From the 1950s until the 1980s, cars were a symbol of ultimate freedom.
Today, however, many young people think cars are outdated, cumbersome, limiting and polluting.
In many modern cities around the world, there are bicycle lanes and excellent low-cost public transportation. In the last decade alone, the number of Americans who use bicycles as a mode of transportation has risen 24%, the use of public transportation rose 40%, and 16% even say they’ve walked places instead of traveling by car or bus.Interestingly enough, when broken down by economic status, it turns out that the better off a person was financially, the more likely he or she would be to walk, bike or take public transportation instead of driving a private car. In other words, this trend is a societal and not economically based phenomenon.
The non-profit organization EcoMotion, which works towards innovation in the smart transportation sector, hosted the Tel Aviv Cities Summit this past October. One of the highlights of the conference was a presentation by Nico Gabriel, the general manager of German car-sharing service provider DriveNow, which is a partnership between BMW and Sixt Car Rental. It operates a fleet of 1,700 cars and another 130 electric cars and has 161,000 members in five German cities and San Francisco.
According to Gabriel, “The main reason why we chose to carry out this project with a high-end car is because many of our clients choose DriveNow because they love being able to drive a nice car that they normally wouldn’t be able to afford.
“When we were first starting out,” Gabriel says, “we had 5,000 members and we didn’t receive even one complaint or request for help or instruction. So we thought our project was a perfect success, and that we had done such a good job explaining how to operate the system. We were very proud of ourselves.
“Only afterwards, after more members had joined, did the requests for help start piling up with our customer service department. Only then did we realize that our initial set of customers had been hi-tech savvy, figure out- everything-on-my-own types who love discovering new technologies.
“Another interesting fact we discovered,” Gabriel continues, “is that surprisingly enough, the bulk of our members are between the ages of 30 and 35 (60%), and not younger as we had predicted. And, not surprisingly, at the onset 90% of our customers were male. Now, more women are joining and they currently make up 25% of our clientele.
“We’ve identified three different groups of people among our members: the first group joined for ideological reasons (less pollution, less traffic); the second group joined for economic reasons; and the third group joined in an effort to use their time more efficiently.”
When asked whether he thought that car sharing would reach Tel Aviv anytime soon, he responded, “Yes, indeed. Our research indicates that Tel Aviv certainly fits the criteria and we are currently making an effort to raise awareness among the relevant people in the Tel Aviv Municipality so that we can bring this wonderful project to Israel too.”
Translated by Hannah Hochner.