Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Carshare Wars

Competition heats up.

Zipcar, which bought Seattle-based Flexcar last fall, is bidding to replace PhillyCarShare Inc. as car-share supplier to the City of Philadelphia, said Robert Fox, head of the city Office of Fleet Management.

Zipcar plans to convert its local 110-vehicle fleet to the Zipcar brand today. It is offering promotional pricing, including $6 an hour for a hybrid Toyota Prius, with free gas, miles and insurance. That compares with PhillyCarShare's weekday rate of $3.90 plus 9 cents a mile, and a free hour per month.

"They're trying to follow our lead in discounting hybrids," said Clayton Lane, deputy executive director at PhillyCarShare. "Because we're not trying to provide a financial profit, we can provide a lower price and invest more in our cars and systems."

PhillyCarShare said it earned a 10 percent surplus from its $10 million in sales last year, when it served 35,000 customers, up from 6,000 the year before. That money went back into the business for faster computer systems and a better variety of cars, Lane said.

Zipcar membership does offer one benefit in that it can be used in other cities, but it's difficult to see how they could really beat PhillyCarShare.