Car sharing grows.
Unlike the traditional car rental, car sharing generally involves an annual membership fee and hourly rates that include gas and insurance. Cars are stationed at numerous locations in city neighborhoods and are reserved online or by telephone. Customers access the keys and the car with keycards, and the charges are billed to their credit cards.
Car sharing firms have operated in several Western European countries since the 1990s. The industry got a later start in North America, but car sharing companies--the best known are ZipCar and Flexcar--have set up in a number of North American cities, including Chicago, Los Angeles, New York, Portland, San Diego, San Francisco, Seattle, Washington, D.C., Montreal, Ottawa, Toronto, and Vancouver, as well as in the Australian cities of Melbourne and Sydney. Compared to the number of people who own cars, car-share membership figures are small, though growing. In Germany, more than 80,000 people use car sharing services. In the United States, according to a recent New York Times story, ZipCar, Flexcar, and nonprofit car sharing groups combined boast over 70,000 members and nearly 1,200 vehicles. Each shared car can replace up to 10 privately owned vehicles.
Although the industry has seen a number of failures of startup companies, prospects look good enough that finding capital seems not to be a problem. Flexcar, for instance, was bought recently by Steve Case, the founder of America Online. Data from Germany suggest that car sharing is growing about 10 percent per year there.
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|Title Annotation:||membership fee and hourly rates|
|Article Type:||Brief Article|
|Date:||Mar 1, 2006|
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