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.
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.