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Avis Buys Zipcar for Nearly $500 Mil

Further evidence of car-sharing boom.

by on Jan.02, 2013

Ford Chairman Bill Ford and Zipcar Chairman Scott Griffith with a Zipcar Ford Focus.

The car-share business has just gotten a big vote of confidence from rent-a-car giant Avis, which is buying Zipcar for $491.2 million.

The move is the biggest deal yet in the nascent market for alternatives to traditional automotive rental systems where users might seek a set of wheels for trip of as little as an hour. Founded in 2000, Zipcar is generally seen as the leader in the car-share market and now claims 760,000 members.

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“By combining with Zipcar, we will significantly increase our growth potential, both in the United States and internationally, and will position our company to better serve a greater variety of consumer and commercial transportation needs,” Avis Chairman and CEO Ronald Nelson said in a statement accompany the Wednesday morning announcement.

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Penske Pairs Up With Hertz

Follows Hertz acquisition of Dollar Thrifty.

by on Sep.07, 2012

A force to be reckoned with, Roger Penske expands his presence in the car rental business.

Hertz, the rental car giant, has entered into an alliance with Penske Automotive Group of Bloomfield Hills, which could lead to PAG picking up more Hertz franchises across the U.S.

Hertz chairman and chief executive officer Mark P. Frissora said the Penske partnership fits nicely into Hertz’s vision of being the global leader in mobility solutions.   The rental giant last month announced it would purchase rival Dollar Thrifty for $2.3 billion.

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With more than 25% market share, Hertz is the leading on-airport car rental brand. The company has also been serving the local market and insurance replacement industry for more than 10 years and is a recognized supplier to more than 193 of the 209 largest insurance companies.

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GM’s OnStar to Offer Car-Sharing to 6 Mil Customers

RelayRides takes service national.

by on Jul.17, 2012

General Motors'• OnStar subscribers can now rent out their idle vehicles through the RelayRides marketplace.

General Motors OnStar telematics service is getting into the car rental business.  Or, more precisely, into the fast-expanding world of car-sharing.

The concept skips the busy corporate rental counters that motorists traditionally experience.  Instead, car-sharing allows an owner to rent their vehicle directly to another motorist – often for brief periods and at substantially lower rates.

Nearly 6 million OnStar customers will be eligible under the new program which pairs the GM service with car-sharing leader RelayRides.  The alliance will allow a renter to get the keys to a vehicle without having to meet the car’s owner.

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“General Motors, through OnStar, and RelayRides have joined forces to create an entirely new mobility solution for U.S. drivers interested in more affordable, sustainable and collaborative automobile options,” explained GM Vice Chairman Steve Girsky. “Our exclusive relationship with RelayRides provides an exciting new choice: the first automobiles to run on collaborative consumption.”

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Rental Car Firms Nailing Travelers on Fuel Charges

Charges surge past $9 a gallon.

by on May.09, 2011

Those smiling rental agents are happy to double the price of gas if you don't return your car with a full tank.

You’re running late for yourflight so you rush up to the rental return counter, toss the keys to the clerk and head for the shuttle.

The shock might not hit until your credit card bill shows up, weeks later, where you discover a $200 charge for having the rent-a-car company handle filling the tank on the minivan you used for your family vacation.

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Rental companies have traditionally charged a steep premium if you return a car with less than a full tank, but that’s all the more so with fuel prices at the gas station now averaging an even $4 a gallon.  A survey by USA Today found Hertz charging $9.29 at 13 major airport offices on April 29, while a number of Dollar and Thrifty rental sites were getting $8.99.  The figures may have gone up yet again since then, depending on location.

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Car Sharing Meets Austin City Limits

Daimler takes its car2go demonstration program international.

by on Mar.26, 2009

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A fleet of Smart fortwo cars will be used by city of Austin employees in the demonstration.

In the unending quest for new markets, automakers are now setting their sights on the very places that car use has made inhospitable – crowded cities. While the approaches take various forms of sharing or renting vehicles, they all have in common the promise of easing urban mobility and eliminating some of the onerous aspects of owning or renting a car in urban areas. In order to make this latest incursion palatable — or at least to deflect some of the obvious criticism that more cars aren’t the answer to making cities more attractive — “green” promises of  emission reduction are made, along with more dubious assertions that this can actually reduce congestion. Still, the idea is attractive enough to explore further.

Just announced in Austin, Texas, this morning is a partnership between the city government and Daimler that will see a demonstration fleet of 200 Smart fortwo cars in service this fall. This “car2go” program emulates as similar demonstration project that started last fall in the much smaller German City of Ulm. Coincident with the Austin announcement, the Ulm program is being expanded today so that the public can participate and not just a select group of Daimler employees. At its start the Austin program, too, is only available to city employees.

The car2go concept is based on a fleet of Smart fortwo vehicles, which are available for rent to registered members at any time. Daimler claims that this makes city driving “as easy as using a mobile phone.”

Unlike some car-sharing programs, car2go promises you can get in a car and drive at any time of day without reserving in advance. The vehicle can then be used for as long as required and returned to any available parking location within a defined area of operation. Critics of similar car sharing programs, such as Massachusetts based Zipcar which operates in a dozen university cities, say that once a program becomes popular, availability becomes restricted and convenience turns to hassles. Major rental companies including Hertz and U-haul are also looking at the idea.  Daimler is taking this slowly with a controlled test group of city employees. It will then be extended to the public, if it’s successful.

“Our project in Austin is the next logical step,” said Thomas Weber, who is responsible for Group Research and for Development of Mercedes-Benz Cars. The car-sharing market in the U.S. is enjoying the highest growth rate in the world, according to Daimler. (more…)