Thursday, May 05, 2005

New Detroit Carsharing Service Uses Prepaid Cards

Detroit is the latest city to add carsharing, and there are several innovative aspects to the way VIa-Car provides its service. In a radical departure from other systems, payment is made through the purchase of prepaid cards, similar to a phone card. When the reservation is made, the code number from the card is entered verifying that sufficient time has been purchased. Voila, no billing department!

Via-Car's strategy is to place vehicles at large apartment & condo complexes, where card machines are also located, rather than the traditional "neighborhood" model. Owner John Steuf, whose background is running an autobody shop, says his biggest challenge is getting enough cars as he's got more than 20 apartment complexes lined up.

And, speaking of cars, what would your members think about driving a late model Lexus ES300 or LS 400? In his first month of operation he has 4 cars on the road and they're getting good usage. Usage and billing is allowed in 15 minute increments. Reservations can be made by operator or web.

Pricing is as follows:
$25 - 2 hours ($12.50/hour)
$60 - 5 hours ($12.00/hour)
$80 - 7 hours ($11.40/hour)
$100 - 9 hours ($11.10/hour)
Day Trip Rate - $60 - includes 12 hours & 75 free miles, gas included; every 10 miles over 75 miles is billed as 15 minutes of usage.

Membership is a one-time non-refundable $200 with $35/year renewal. Cars are equipped with the ETL on-board computer and the MetaVera reservation system is used for scheduling. Vehicles cannot be taken out of state or Canada. In case of an accident the member deductible is $250.

Congratulations John. We wish you great success with Via-Car and your pioneering new ideas.

Be sure to watch the splash movie on the home page at the link below - it's a different take on carsharing!