Will carsharing become a viable solution for American consumers concerned about traffic congestion, air pollution and making hefty car payments? Will it ever be an appealing transportation alternative, as it is in Europe? It depends on who you ask.
German carmaker Daimler is promoting car sharing through its Car2go subsidiary, where users access Smart Fortwo minicars (in ICE and electric versions) in cities like San Diego, Portland, and Miami. Major car rental companies Hertz and Enterprise entered the short-term rental market a while ago to compete with the largest carsharing vehicle provider, Zipcar. As for Zipcar, carsharing is seeing growing interest on college campuses, however, a recent academic study has shown consumers have concerns that need to be addressed
The study, conducted by Fleura Bardhi (Northeastern University) and Giana Eckhardt (Suffolk University) doesn't dismiss car sharing for U.S. consumers, but suggests taking a more realistic and less ideological approach to making it work. The Zipcar users surveyed said they're not in love with the experience – the car isn't their own, they don't need to take care of it and they don't have connection with the brand.
That being said, they do expect the carsharing company to enforce compliance to their rules. Users expect Zipcar to keep the car on schedule with a filled gas tank, and other amenities. No big surprises here – American consumers do tend to demand a lot these days. Carsharing providers need to be very mindful about how they deliver the message and the service.