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Car Theft Ring Forces Luxury Auto Rental Firm to Shut Down

HiGear let wannabes drive the cars of their dreams.

by on Jan.05, 2012

A Tesla listed for rent on the HiGear website.

The idea seemed to have enormous potential: give automotive wannabes the opportunity to drive the cars of their dreams.  Unfortunately for San Francisco-based start-up HiGear, the company also gave a bunch of car thieves to steal the cars of their dreams.

The company offered a distinctive twist on the growing car-sharing phenomenon.  While most of the other players in the emerging field, such as ZipCar, focus on basic transportation, HiGear went to the other extreme, lining up luxury and exotic models from the likes of Aston Martin, BMW, Bentley and even a Tesla.

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After going through a seemingly careful sign-up process members of the service would pay anywhere from $125 to $600 – with the average being $410 a day, according to company officials – plus insurance.  The vehicles they would rent were actually owned by individuals, including co-founder Murtaza Hussein’s BMW Z4, rather than company-owned.

Unfortunately for HiGear, a sophisticated car theft ring figured out how to game the system, using stolen identities and credit cards to line up rentals and then make off with four cars the company says were worth $400,000.

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New Service Lets Enthusiasts Drive the Vehicles of Their Dreams

Owners can also benefit from carsharing service.

by on Oct.10, 2011

A new carsharing service lets you rent the car of your dreams - such as a Lamborghini Gallardo.

Have caviar tastes but a budget that can barely afford an omelet?  A new carsharing service aims to put the vehicle of your dreams within reach.

Dubbed HiGear, the San Francisco-based service is the latest twist on the carsharing concept, which is designed to let folks who don’t own or have access to a vehicle easily rent one for short periods of time at a relatively reasonable cost.

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While most such services focus on low-end vehicles, such as a Smart fortwo or other basic forms of transportation, HiGear lets its customers rent privately-owned luxury cars.  The fee is then split with the owner of the vehicle, helping subsidize their loan payments or maintenance costs, says the service’s founder.

“A lot of carsharing companies focus on people who need a car to go shopping,” explains Murtaza Hussein, the founder and president of HiGear.  “Our business model is for people who want to be in a car like an Aston Martin for their birthday or some other special occasion.”

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