Car2go Launches Car Sharing in Berlin - Why are the Germans Chuckling?

Car2Go Berlin LaunchDaimler/Promo image

Car2go, one of a growing trend of car sharing options, has come to Berlin, placing 1000 Smart forTwo cars around Germany's capital, where registered users can pick up and drop off a car as they need one. With over 2000 pre-registrations, the launch is off to a good start.

Car2go is a subsidiary of Daimler, the company behind the brands Mercedes and Smart Car. In spite of the fact that Daimler represents German culture as well as any company can, the comments to the news about car2go in the German media delve into how strange the name car2go sounds in the German language.

German verbs tend to be very precise. When I first arrived and was learning the language, it would always bring a smile to the face of anyone I would tell that I am "going" to America. "To go" in German, implies that one is walking. One can fly to America, but it is unlikely that one would "go" there.

Similarly, the concept of describing "take away" items as "to go" sounds quite foreign to the German ear. So the pun is lost, and Germans are left wondering just how, exactly, can one have a car to walk?

car2go App

Snickers aside, the car2go program offers people a flexible and simple car rental option intended to make car ownership in the city unnecessary. It cost 9.90 euros (US $13) to register. A car can be used for 29 euro-cents per minute -- a rate that includes applicable taxes, insurance, fuel and parking costs, and the first 20 kilometers traveled. The rate drops to 9 euro-cents per minute if the car is parked. Alternatively, a one-hour car2go rental costs 12.90 euros and daily rental (24 hours) costs 39 euros.

The launch in Berlin also introduces a smart phone App, initially for use on Apple phones, that helps users find the nearest car2go.

Another world premier: the car2go Smarts are outfitted with hyper-miling monitors that will assess drivers' braking, acceleration, and coasting to deliver a score in the form of one to three trees. While not yet available, Daimler has suggested the introduction of a program to offer drivers that score three trees some kind of rebate, in the form of free minutes for example.

Is Public Transport Threatened?

Not at all. In fact, Daimler's car2go cooperates with the public transport authorities of Berlin and the surrounding regions. In the words of the Berlin Transport company (BVG) Chairwoman Dr. Sigrid Nikutta:
Buses and subways are the backbone of the local public transport system. An intelligent link with supplementary services enables us to offer our customers the opportunity to choose and combine additional convenient options from the city’s various means of transport in line with their needs. Our goal here must be to set up a system that combines the entire product range in the form of a ticket or entry into a standardized information system. This will make it possible for Berliners and their guests to move through the city on buses and trains, by bike, or with a taxi or electric vehicle as needed. In this sense, car2go is an important partner for us as we move to transform our mobility vision into reality.

Although commenters in the German media have also questioned the need for yet another 1000 cars parked in Berlin's rare parking spaces, only paying for a car when you need one makes sense to us. If the car sharing concept leads to less individual car ownership, everyone wins.

Car2go Launches Car Sharing in Berlin - Why are the Germans Chuckling?
Daimler brings the flexible short-term rental concept to Berlin with 1000 SmartCars, raising smiles for more than just the pleasure of car sharing.

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