Car Sharing: Making Moves in the Right Direction

In recent months past, the automotive industry has been a part of one wild roller-coaster ride. With the struggling economy combined with the pending collapse of some of the nations leading auto producing giants, it would seem at face value that there is no hope for the industry recovering. However, things began to look up with the implementation of the CARS program, which helped not only resuscitate the industry a bit, it also helped take inefficient vehicles off the road, replacing them with more fuel efficient options. It would seem from there, the industry has only made improvements for the most part.

One concept which has recently seen a boost in support is the idea behind the Zipcar. The Zipcar company is leading a car-sharing campaign which seems to be spreading like wildfire across the nation. With a membership base of 325,000, Zipcar continues to expand its reach. It’s become such a popular concept that non-profit organizations have begun to organize similar programs around the country. Organizations such as I-Go out of Chicago, City CarShare in San Francisco, and Philly CarShare in Philadelphia offer similar services. Even car-rental heavyweights Enterprise and Hertz are hopping on the wagon.

“The future of transportation will be a blend of things like Zipcar, public transportation and private car ownership, Not only do I not fear that, but I think it’s a great opportunity for us to participate in the changing nature of car ownership.”said Ford Executive Chairman Bill Ford, who acknowledged that car-sharing is a definite sign of evolution within the auto industry.

In October of 2007, Zipcar – which is headquartered in Cambridge, Mass.- took over rival company Flexcar. With that addition, the company began to generate approximately $130 Million annually. Zipcar Chief Executive Officer Scott Griffith has estimated $5 Billion in annual revenue throughout the entire industry if these growth patterns continue on the path they are currently on.
In the past year, there has been a 78% increase in memberships in the Ann Arbor area alone. The fleet at University of Michigan has 15 vehicles- comprised of Toyota, Honda, Mini, and Ford , and is looking to continue to expand.

Another phenomenal quality of these programs is the fuel efficiency involved. CEO of Chicago-based I-GO Sharon Feigon has noted that half their vehicles are hybrids. She’s also been quoted as saying, “Remember: We pay for the gas, so we will always be partial to fuel-efficient and low-emission vehicles.” While the car-sharing industry has focused its attention primarily on college towns, much of its growth is expected to be found in larger cities such as Boston, New York, and Chicago,

Here are a few specifics for the Zipcar program:

-$25 Application fee / $50 annual membership fee ($35 for Univ. Michigan students,staff, faculty) gets a magnetized card that provides access to one of four cars in Ann Arbor.

-Hourly Rates: $8 Hour weekdays / $9 Hour Weekends

-Must have unblemished driving record due to insurance payments ( Zipcar will not hesitate to reject those drivers deemed high-risk.

-No smoking in the vehicle.

-Each vehicle has a gas card in the glove compartment, drivers must leave ¼ tank of gas when returning the vehicle.

-Drivers may not taxi people nor deliver any products (i.e. pizza)

For these nominal fees, you can save yourself thousands of dollars a year in insurance, gas, car payments, parking passes, and other areas associated with owning a vehicle. Its not only financially smart, its environmentally friendly. Joining the Zipcar family is a smart way to help improve your life while managing to save some extra change here and there. But you still have to obey the law, avoid having to call a Michigan DUI lawyer in a shared vehicle!

Written by Joseph Awad