Carsharing Isn’t All It Could Be

Gary S. Vasilash

“In New York, San Francisco and Washington, D.C., customers have taken to Yelp to gripe about dirty cars, rude reps, unreturned emails, last-minute changes and overall lousy service,” writes Joan Voight in a recent piece in Adweek on the subject of Zipcar, primarily, and other car-sharing services supportively.

Bottom line is captured in the headline: “Zipcar’s Customer Service Gets Horrible Reviews.”



Which makes one wonder about the projection in a new report from Navigant Research, “Carsharing Programs,” which projects that the number of members in carsharing programs on a global basis will grow from a present 2.3-million to more than 12-million by 2020.

Probably not if the conditions reported by Ms. Voight continue to be the norm.

While the idea of carsharing makes a lot of sense for many people, particularly those who live in congested urban areas, where to say that parking “is at a premium” is like saying “Warren Buffet has a lot of money,” clearly an understatement, paying for the convenience of getting a dirty car doesn’t seem all that appealing.

Certainly Zipcar et al have a responsibility for making sure that the vehicles they make available to their members are clean and functional, there is part of this equation that may play into why as carsharing grows, the cleanliness and performance of the fleet may suffer.

Carsharing services use regular production cars as their fleet.

Transportation designer Dan Sturges has pointed out to me that it would probably be beneficial for all concerned if OEM designers were to take carsharing into account when creating some vehicles. Arguably, the selection of interior materials, seating configurations, and IP setups, to name a few, would be far different. This is not to say that there would need to be platform-specific vehicles for carsharing, which would be economically unfeasible, but that there are trim packages that would be suited, in effect, to hosing out at times.

With companies expected—Enterprise—and unexpected—Daimler—getting into carsharing, there is little doubt that there will be growth.

Perhaps some clever company will take Sturges’s idea into execution and gain a competitive edge.