Big Wake-Up Call for Car Sharing
By Lee Broughton
Snopes.com, otherwise known as “the Urban Legends Reference Pages,” is well known for validating or debunking Internet rumors, misguided e-mails and other pop-culture stories. And it appears to be a resource one should keep in mind when reading about car sharing.
Don’t get me wrong. Automated car-sharing technology has made highly accessible and affordable local car rental even more convenient, bringing transportation options even closer to where people live and work round the clock. But, in my opinion, car sharing is much more practical – and therefore, much more powerful and sustainable – than any urban myth.
That’s precisely why I was so heartened to read about Northeastern University’s Fleura Bardhi and Suffolk University’s Giana M. Eckhardt, two curious researchers who got together to independently test the car-sharing hype and media frenzy. Indeed, as reported in ScienceDaily.com, their study challenges the “romanticized view of access understood as a form of collaborative consumption and altruistically motivated.”
Those in the car-sharing business already know about the industry’s legal and financial challenges. But this study – “Access Based Consumption: The Case for Car Sharing” – confirms that affordability and convenience actually are the primary factors driving consumers’ participation in car-sharing programs. It also reveals that clean, well-maintained vehicles, as well as access to new and different models, are critical issues for car-sharing customers.
None of this was exactly news here at Enterprise. We firmly believe these landmark findings should serve as a reality check – a big wake-up call – for anyone who believes in car-sharing technology and transportation sustainability overall.
Today’s car-sharing customers, just like car-rental customers, are demanding up-to-date vehicles and first-rate customer service. Moreover, the best way, the only way, to make car-sharing service scalable is to ensure that it is flexible, responsive and competitive in the marketplace.
To that end, we operate Enterprise CarShare as an extension of our unique Enterprise Rent-A-Car neighborhood network – which includes almost 1 million vehicles and more than 5,500 offices located within 15 miles of 90 percent of the U.S. population. In fact, last month we introduced the Enterprise brand into retail car sharing for the first time, starting in Boston and New York City.
So why did we begin with two of the most competitive car-sharing markets in the country? Because, more than 15 years ago, Enterprise Rent-A-Car officially recognized the strength and energy of local Virtual Car® rental service, especially for those who rely on mass transit during the week or who simply cannot afford to purchase or maintain a vehicle on their own.
The most recent car-sharing research underscores – for urban planners, elected officials and other visionary leaders – why transportation needs to not only be environmentally, but also operationally and financially, sustainable in the communities we all serve. In addition, the research reinforces Enterprise’s public and long-term commitment to urban mobility, which was addressed by our Chairman and CEO at the 2012 Corporate EcoForum annual meeting. In his keynote speech last summer, Andy Taylor noted that hourly car-sharing has a role to play in the urban mobility equation, stressing that, “at Enterprise, we already have the scale and structure to implement car-sharing in virtually every urban market,” and that this is just one more way our company is committed to offering customers alternatives that both meet their needs and that makes good business sense.