Monday, December 08, 2008

Connect By Hertz Launches BIG

The long awaited carsharing service from Hertz car rental company finally surfaced last week - on the web at least  - Connect By Hertz.

And Hertz entered the market in a big way - in New York City, Paris and London.  (You'll have to use the "change location" button at the bottom of the any page to see the other cities.)

The official launch date is December 15 but some vehicles are currently available.
The initial launch in NYC is right in the heart of prime territory for Zipcar - where a substantial percentage of their Manhattan fleet is centered.

The Connect website features the now standard "darling" of hip carsharing marketing - the BMW Mini (in a very sporty image), listed as their "Jet Set" class vehicle which starts at $10/hour.  The other vehicle classes are: Social - Toyota Camry and Personal - Toyota Prius.  Other vehicles in the initial launch include Ford Escape and Mazda 3. This is a much more narrowly focused vehicle selection than Zipcar or Mint offers, presumably based on some familiarity with the market since they've been renting cars for many years in New York City. The web site suggests that all vehicles are equipped with Hertz "Never Lost" turn by turn navigation systems - a very smart move by Hertz!

In London the 3 vehicles are: Compact - Ford Fiesta; Family - Ford Focus; Fun - Mini.  In Paris, the line up is: Compact - Opel Corsa; Family - Opel Meriva and Sport - Mini.

Like every other carsharing company they are seeking the consumers' sweet spot to commit to a certain amount of spending per month (I originally said "driving per month" here - Dave).  Connect By Hertz offers three membership categories, each with different hourly rates:
  • Connect - standard no monthly fee - usage at $10-$12-$14 per hour + annual membership of $50.
  • Connect 50 - $50 per month min. - usage at $9-$10.80-$12.60 per hour
  • Connect 125 - $125 per month - $8.50-$10.20-$11.90 per hour
The daily rental range presents a real challenge for a car rental company since they would prefer to minimize stealing customers from their traditional car rental business - at least unless they could hope to earn more money from them through carsharing.   Presently, the only direct competition would be the Prius, available from Connect for $70/day down to $59.50/day, depending on the rate plan, including 180 miles; while in the car rental division's "Green" collection the Prius rents for $97.49 per day, less taxes and without gas or GPS. Other comparable rentals would be a Ford Focus for $81/day and Mazda 6 for $87/day.  

Actually, the fine print on the Connect web site says if you rent a car for over 8 hours in a day, you'll only be charged for 8.   There's no mention of roll-over "hours" that Zipcar offers for its various Extra Value Plans (a very nice feature).  Reservation changes and cancellations can be made 4 hours or more in advance of the trip start at no fee; otherwise members pay the reserved hours, up to a day's use (8 hours).

Congratulations to Hertz for taking the plunge .  And congratulations, too, to Eileo for an international deal.   Meanwhile, we're wondering what's happening over at Mint?

PS: Here's an interesting interview with Hertz CEO Mark Frissora about Connect by Hertz (while it lasts on the internet).