Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Carsharing Association Launched

Following several years of ad hoc meetings, independent carsharing organizations in North America launched a formal organization to promote their interests - the Carsharing Association. Presently, they are a variety of non-profit, for profit companies, most in the US and Canada.

Independent carshare bascially means - not Zipcar, Connect or U Carshare. Along the way, they have added an international flavor with carshares in Australia (GoGet) and Brazil (Zazcar). Car2Go and none of the start up peer-to-peer carsharing companies in California are members, although at least two of them have met with the group.

The Car Sharing Association has a well-developed "Code of Ethics" which builds on the earlier Code the group developed several years ago. The code describes standards of customer service, operations, environmental standards, etc. One goal of the group is that government agencies wanting to define carsharing eligible for partnership services, such as on-street parking, will use membership in the Association as their criteria.

An important test of the group will be watching how the organization deals with competition situations. Previously, there was no discussion about competition in earlier versions of the Code, and there seemed to be an unwritten expectation that since the companies were all community-based they would not move into each others' territory. Now, the Code has specific language about how competitors should treat each other.

At this early stage no carshares in Europe are members of the Carsharing Association presumably not finding any great need to belong to another organization when there are organizations that have more immediate benefit close at hand - CarPlus in the UK, the Bundesverband Carsharing Deutschland, Autopartage France and the Italian gruppo.

Formalizing the Car Sharing Association is a useful next step for independent carshares to take and the code of ethics a good way to insure that the benefits of carsharing to individuals, cities and the environment are not lost in the rush to make a profit along the way. Hopefully, the group will come to see the value of an organization with "the big guys" in it, as well, since there is much needed in the regulatory area of every country in order to level the playing field of car ownership and carsharing. Good luck.