Lisa Fordham, Negosentro | The automotive industry is in the midst of a massive shake-up thanks to the sharing economy. Instead of investing in personal vehicles, many younger consumers are engaging in ridesharing and carsharing programs, which allow them access to a vehicle when they need one – and to avoid the costs of car ownership when they don’t.
Considering that Uber is valued above $51 billion and that every major car manufacturer is developing a carsharing service, it might be time for you to consider launching a carsharing startup of your own. However, before you do, here are six critical considerations that might impact your business plan.
You aren’t alone in recognizing the carsharing trend. In addition to ridesharing platforms, which could transition into carsharing programs as autonomous technology progresses, several carsharing enterprises already exist in the market, meaning you will need to out-compete them to succeed.
The largest and most popular is Zipcar, which developed independently but was acquired by Avis in 2013. Zipcar boasts well over 1 million members in 10,000 cities around the world. Other established car rental agencies have similar carshare endeavors, including Enterprise Car Share and Hertz on Demand (which ultimately failed).
Further, as mentioned above, several car manufacturers are getting in on the carsharing game. Daimler’s Car2Go focuses on small, economical vehicles and is expanding aggressively into American markets. GM’s Maven, BMW’s ReachNow, and Ford’s SmartMobility and Chariot programs are all eager for an audience.
Finally, in addition to new and old competitors, you must compete with a concept: car ownership. Experts believe that interest in ownership will naturally wane in urban areas, but you still must convince your consumers that your carsharing program is the best of all options, including the convenience of a car in the driveway.
A strong, unique brand is a first step toward effective competition. In the carsharing market, your brand will convey your carshare’s personality and values. In the time of large, multi-national, faceless carshare companies, your brand could endear you to your audience in a strong and profitable way.
Building a carsharing brand is not unlike building any brand identity; it requires research of your audience, introspection of your intentions, principles, and character, and (perhaps most importantly) extensive strategizing. Your carsharing program could be: luxurious, local-focused, reliable, fun, youth-oriented, cool — or any combination of these. The key is to develop a brand that your target consumers enjoy.
Though ridesharing programs existed long before smartphone apps, modern carsharing is impossible without modern technology. First and foremost, your carsharing company needs a fleet with the latest and greatest vehicles to keep users protected and content with available features. Next, your business will rely on technology to track the location and status of your vehicles, so you can accurately guide users to nearby cars, perform necessary maintenance, and more. Finally, you need an intuitive and comprehensive app that allows users to interact with your business easily and efficiently. This is just the bare minimum for a functional carsharing program.
Around most of America, insurance is mandatory for any vehicles on the road. Because you own your fleet, you are responsible for insuring your cars and passengers – but policies differ in different regions. For the most part, personal auto insurance won’t cover vehicles used in carsharing enterprises; instead, you will be needing carsharing insurance, which is akin to commercial auto insurance. You might need to use specialty insurance agencies to ensure you have total coverage for your investments and users.
Typically, carsharing companies charge users a low monthly fee and subsequent hourly or mileage fees every time they use a vehicle. However, this doesn’t mean your carsharing pricing model has to match. In fact, the traditional carsharing pricing is severely limiting of how users can use your program; thus, you might consider developing a new pricing structure to address the needs of your audience.
Within tech, customer service is the least flashy consideration, but it is also among the most important. Any industry that disrupts another – as is the case with carsharing and automotive – is new and confusing to consumers. Before they sign up and as they begin using your service, your users will have plenty of concerns and questions. Therefore, you need a comprehensive customer service system to assist your users in accessing and enjoying your carshare. If possible, customer service should be built into your company’s brand, to help you beat the competition and find success.