How are cities around the world adapting?
There are many good examples of how cities are promoting car sharing, especially the electrical version of it. For instance, Singapore launched the “Electric Vehicle (EV) Car-Sharing Programme” with more than 1000 electric vehicles and around 2000 charging points across the city. The downtown of Madrid, the capital city of Spain, is now accessible for electric or hybrid car-sharing cars only. That’s how Madrid is promoting an approach of being greener and having a town with zero-emission fleets. Another example of Hamburg, which provides free parking places or smaller parking fees for electric vehicles. Thus, it attracts car-sharing companies, which can cut costs on parking fees.
Car manufactures must rethink business flow and focus. How do they react to this inevitable change?
Well, car manufacturers understand that decreasing car ownership will have an impact on their businesses, so they are also becoming critical players in this industry. For example, BMW and Daimler joined forces by merging their car-sharing companies and launched the ShareNow joint venture. Now it has more than 3 million users in different cities across Europe.
Another example is Volkswagen, which has the most significant concentration of electric vehicles in one place – 1500 cars in Berlin. Furthermore, they are planning to launch services in 8 new cities in 2020. That’s big! In my opinion, car manufacturers and car rental companies will become leading players dominating the car-sharing industry due to their experience in this field and understanding of the customer needs.
We can see many new names joining the shared mobility game. What are the main factors they have to take into account to stay competitive?
In my opinion, three minor pillars can help car-sharing companies to stand out in front of others – accessibility, sustainability, and uniqueness.
Accessibility – most of the time there are enough cars available, so you don’t have to walk long distances. Again, it’s important for Millennials and Gen Z who want to use service immediately.
Another thing related to accessibility is the flexibility to change short-term rent into longer rent, meaning that you can easily use a vehicle for an extended period if plans have changed. Some car-sharing companies introduced multi-city access where you can pick a car in one city and leave it to another town. I do believe this will become quite a significant advantage for some players.
Sustainability – as I said before, people want to contribute to the greener economy and the reduction of carbon imprints. Electric vehicles enable people to act responsibly and show that each of us can participate in shaping a brighter tomorrow. There is a car-sharing company called “Spark” in Lithuania, and its fleet consists of only electric cars. It is a vital factor for a considerable part of society (including me) who are choosing between different car-sharing companies.
Uniqueness – there are plenty of similar companies in the business, but some of them play this game way better than others even when they are offering the same or similar services. Looking at the current business landscape, you have to stand out and stick into the minds of your customers. There can be various ways to achieve this – engaging and playful advertising campaigns, special customer loyalty programs, and even the design of your cars. For example, there is another car-sharing company in Lithuania called “Citybee,” which transforms some of their vehicles during Christmas to look like Rudolph, for example. It’s nice because it gets attention from people and from media, which converts it to free marketing.