Monday, July 11, 2005

Zipcar Portland?

Zipcar is all fueled up with a $10 million in their gas tank, ready to expand. Symbolically, they've chosen Portland, Oregon, the birthplace of carsharing in the USA (by yours truly and friends), as one of their next destinations - Seattle and San Francisco were other cities announced for future expansion.

Flexcar is ready. CEO Lance Ayrault says, "We welcome the challenge. We also have significant new investment that will be announced shortly. Our expansion plans differ from Zipcar in that we are focused on opening new markets."

Scott Griffith, Zipcar CEO says they intend to be operating in 25 major metropolitan areas by 2009, up from 3 today, so they have their work cut out. He says they had revenues of $15 million last year.

Zipcar has demonstrated it can hold its own against the competition by thriving in the Washington, DC market, where they lost a high profile partnership bid with WMATA, the area transit agency, to Flexcar early on. After revamping their membership and cost structure (to one similar to Flexcar's but with some appealing variations), Zipcar has continued to expand in DC, with vehicles in the same neighborhoods and Metro stops, and in one case, with vehicles in the same parking lot.

For you armchair PR types, listen to the way Zipcar describes itself:

"From the day we put our first car on the road, we've proven that car- sharing can provide a smarter, more feasible alternative to car-ownership and dramatically expands the transportation alternatives that help to improve the overall lifestyle of urban residents," said Zipcar CEO Scott Griffith. "Benchmark's investment marks the transition of Zipcar and car-sharing from a revolutionary concept to an established and vital national transportation solution for urban and university settings alike."

We all need to be able to articulate a vision as dynamic as this! And what about the reference to "university settings" - perhaps they've figured out a more comprehensive solution to the 18-21 year old insurance problem?

Zipcar's publicity includes an impressive list of accomplishments,
• the first car-sharing service in North America to attain profitability in all of its markets (CommunAuto might take issue with that)
• the largest active membership base of any car-sharing service (note the qualifier "active" - presumably slamming Flexcar's early low-fee membership promotions)
• the largest and most varied fleet of any car-sharing service, with over 20 different makes and models including the Volkswagen Jetta, Mazda 3, Toyota Prius hybrid, Volvo S40, Mini Cooper, BMW 325i, Scion xB, Ford Escape and Toyota Tacoma pickup truck.

These are exciting times in the carsharing world, so stay tuned. The press release indicated they'd be announcing more details of their plans on Aug. 1. I can't wait.

You can read more about Zipcar's plans at the LINK below. And check the stories that this announcement has generated by clicking on the Google News link to the right.