Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Life after Flexcar

Now that Zipcar has announced an end to the Flexcar car sharing program in non-UCSD San Diego locations (see the UT article), we need an alternative. Enterprise has a downtown office, hourly rentals in other markets, and a car sharing program in St. Louis. There are rumors Hertz and Avis have an interest in car sharing. U-Haul provides car sharing in some markets. Let's produce a list of potential users and talk to the rental companies. To add your name to the interest list, please send an email to mail@sd-fun.org.

Please include:
  • Where would you use car(s)? If you were using Flexcars, which did you use?
  • What type of cars did you/would you use most often?
  • If you used Flexcar, which billing plan were you using?
  • How many times per month and hours per use were you reserving cars on the above billing plan?
  • How many times per month and hours per use would you likely reserve cars at $10/hr with $60/day max, including insurance and gas? (I don't know if those rates are likely, but the question needs rates for context.)
  • What was your average monthly Flexcar bill?
If you can't include some of those or don't feel comfortable doing so, please still send an email. I'm expecting that the more information we have, the more success we'll have working with a rental car company.

9 comments:

stidge said...

What a phenomenal concept! Unfortunately, I can see how the inconsistent revenue stream presents a major obstacle for a business with such significant infrastructure costs.
It seems logical that the big car rental companies sould assign a portion of there idle fleet to this market in Downtowm particularly given the close proximity to the airport.

louisac said...

Has anyone considered creating a network of car owners who would be willing to rent their vehicles on an occasional basis to pre-screened car needers? Would the logistics be too complicated? I can't do without a car but would like to contribute to reducing the number of vehicles on the road by making mine available.

tequilajunkies said...

As a Coaster commuter from Point Loma/OB I have used Flexcar as an alternative to owning a car. I have relied on it for most errands, shopping, Southern CA trips, etc. Even a couple of trips to Arizona! I am quite sure that I am not the only user that relied on Flexcar this way.

The way that Zipcar handled announcing the changes was horrid at best: the first message was we are merging, then(for me) cars in OB are being eliminated, then watch for your Zipcar welcome package (!?), and lastly all cars are being eliminated!

It would great if a few dedicated users could use group-think to solve this problem!

Bucky said...

I suspect that any kind of formal car sharing would cause a denial of coverage from your insurance carrier unless you buy a commercial policy. Putting together an interest list and approaching ALL of the rental agencies in town would be the best idea. One of the smaller regional companies might be willing to do this if they could get hundreds of new clients.

iamonhold said...

I like the "network of car owners" idea, assuming an insurance model works. However, such a network would also have to operate on a huge amount of trust. Maybe a social networking site; the likes of MySpace, FaceBook, LinkedIn, could be customized to fit car sharing so the network could build from the bottom up based on actual use and also turning a small profit back to the car owner. Or, at least covering expenses for the owner and taking more cars off the road and carbon out of the atmosphere.

Big Joe said...

I used Flexcar in the Point Loma area. The car I usually used was the one stationed at Stump's market on Voltaire. My wife and I used the car as many as 10 times per month. Our collective bill was as high as $200.00/month. We both used the car mainly for business. Now we rent cars for approximately the same amount per month, not including gas. It really was the perfect solution for us. It seemed to good to be true. I understand that Zipcar had to do what is best for it's shareholders, but someone is going to figure out how to make this service work. I doubt it will be zipcar. This blog discusses Flexcar's ineptitude: http://carsharingus.blogspot.com/2007/10/end-of-era-flexcar-to-merge-with-zipcar.html

tequilajunkies said...

Where would you use car(s)? If you were using Flexcars, which did you use?
Old Town (before that one was eliminated), Ocean Beach (used all of them in the area but 7400 at Stumps the most often; I live in OB/Point Loma), and Downtown. (I originally joined Flexcar when I lived in Hillcrest and I again used several different cars depending on my needs)

What type of cars did you/would you use most often?
Location was generally more important than the type of car; sometimes I wanted or needed to drive a particular car and went to an area outside of OB) Little Italy or Downtown (grab a mini Copper or van or truck)

If you used Flexcar, which billing plan were you using?
$200/month plan

How many times per month and hours per use were you reserving cars on the above billing plan?
4-10 (depending on my needs) sometimes a day or the weekend other times just a couple of hours

How many times per month and hours per use would you likely reserve cars at $10/hr with $60/day max, including insurance and gas? (I don't know if those rates are likely, but the question needs rates for context.)
Prior to Flexcar I used a rental car two weekends/month; I would anticipate a similar level of use depending on the location of the car

What was your average monthly Flexcar bill? Lowest $200 and change/Highest $600 and change (generally around $350)

Corey said...

Thanks for the outlet...I also shopped around a bit to see if I could get another company to come into town to take over. I got a reply that someone in SF may be interested in expanding.

paulkimo said...

Another possible option would be to create a non-profit carsharing group like CityCarShare in San Francisco. Non-profits would be a lot more committed to the community than the profit/loss statement. It would require securing grants from foundations or funding through SANDAG to make it successful.

On another subject, I sent an email to Zipcar because I had received a Zipcar card when they made the change in the
Bay Area. Not sure why I got one since I haven't lived in the Bay Area for a while now. Anyway, I was surprised to get the email and I emailed them to make sure I was reading it right. Here is the reply:

Dear Paul,

Thanks for writing. I know how frustrating this is Paul, but as of
right now the university locations are the only ones that will be active.If you want to go to the following link and submit you e-mail address,you will be notified if vehicles are placed in your neighborhood.

If you have any further questions or concerns, please do not hesitate
to contact us.

Regards,
Sluaghan
Zipcar Member Services

This seems to indicate that the door is being left open to maybe restore some of the cars if there is sufficient interest. Does this mean we should be flooding their email or is it just a waste of time?