Steve Case & Lee Iacocca Invest in Flexcar
Car-sharing is awesome! There, we've put our cards on the table, now you know what we think. We've been working on a general post about that subject for a while and it will soon appear on Treehugger, but we can't wait that long to let our readers know about some exciting new developments in that industry. "America Online co-founder Steve Case and former Chrysler Corp. Chief Executive Lee Iacocca are joining the board of the 6-year-old car-sharing service [Flexcar] and investing an undisclosed amount in the privately held company. As a result of the investment, Flexcar will double its fleet of 450 cars and expand into as many as five new cities in the next 16 months [...] It also hopes to double its membership to 60,000 people by the end of next year." Ain't that grand? Mr Case's investment firm, Revolution, will own a majority of shares in Flexcar and Mr Iacocca will have a smaller stake in the company. They have big plans: "You just don't know how the whole thing is going to play out, but certainly our vision is that there could be as many as a million members and 20,000 cars on the road within five years."
Flexcar's main competitor, Zipcar, raised $10 millions last month and is planning to expand on the West Coast, a region that was basically Flexcar's turf until now. Competition can only be good for the public at this point, and the untapped potential of car-sharing is so huge that we don't doubt there will be more than enough customers for the two companies. In fact, since a big part of their task is to bring awareness of the car-sharing concept to people, their combined marketing efforts will certainly complement each other to the benefit of both companies.
Here is Wikipedia's summary of how Car-Sharing works, but stay tuned to Treehugger for more on car-sharing:
Car sharing is a system where a fleet of cars (or other vehicles) is owned by a company or cooperative, which are available for use by members of the car share. Typically, the participants in such a program are city dwellers whose transportation needs are largely met by public transit, walking, or cycling. Some households use a car share as an alternative to the hassles of owning (and parking) a second car.
To participate, one must usually become a member of the car share. This usually requires a check of past driving records, and a monthly or annual fee. The vehicle is reserved in advance, usually over the Internet or telephone. Most companies charge an hourly fee for the time that the car is in use, plus a fee per mile driven. Some car shares offer a discounted all-day rate for their cars. If a vehicle is not returned at the scheduled time, a very high fee is charged, since it may interfere with other drivers' reservations.
One major perk of car sharing is that the membership and rental fees usually include reimbursement for the cost of gas. Many car shares include gas cards in the glove compartment of all of their vehicles, which can be used to refuel the car at no additional cost to the driver. Insurance is usually also included in the membership fee. Many car shares also reimburse members for washing a rented vehicle on their time.
Thanks to Joseph Willemssen for the tip!