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ZipCar Targets College Students

Recharging ZipCarsLast year, ZipCar focused its expansion on increasing its presence at college and university campuses. The company has recognised that drivers between the ages of 18 and 34 are the most likely to use its services and hold the key to its success. The car sharing business is doing everything it can to become a favourite for young motorists by signing a deal with Ford, investing in Wheelz (a peer-to-peer college car sharing programme) and launching an app on Facebook.

ZipCar has nearly 675,000 members and a fleet of more than 9,000 vehicles across North America and Europe. Last year alone, its membership numbers rose by 25%, which resulted in 30% higher revenues and its first two profitable quarters in the second half.

According to a study conducted by ZipCar, 18- to 34-year-olds are the most important car sharing market for the company and already comprise of over half of its membership base. The research found that the young generation’s attitudes toward car ownership and personal transportation were more adoptive to collaborative consumption. In other words, the generation values access to cars more than owning a personal vehicle.

The car sharing service expanded its programme for universities to 40 new campuses last year to reach a total 250 institutions across the nation. It signed a two-year partnership with Ford to make it the biggest source of cars for the University Program. Also last year, the company launched an app on Facebook that allows members to “Reserve a ZipCar” or modify/cancel bookings directly on the social networking site. On top of this, ZipCar recently invested in peer-to-peer car sharing company Wheelz, which targets college campus communities.

Meanwhile, ZipCar offers more than college and university programmes and is working to offer environmentally-friendly mobility solutions. The company announced last week that it’s adding five Chevrolet Volt electric cars to its fleet in Chicago – the first large-scale pilot programme for electric vehicles for the company. Over the course of the year, up to 20 more of the electric cars will be added to the Chicago fleet to take the total to 25.

ZipCar Chicago general manager Charles Stephens says he anticipates the total fleet to be near 700 cars by the end of the year (it currently stands at 450). The former vice president of operations for Threadless, a T-shirt maker, says electric cars hold great promise for the car sharing market. They believe the pilot is a great test for ZipCar to understand the best way to integrate electric cars and for their members to try vehicles they may have only read about. These electric vehicles are also perfect for the less than 35-mile trips that its members take, he added, as this is the estimated fuel-free travel range for the Chevrolet Volt.

ZipCar has partnered with 350Green to install public charging stations. The $8.9 million project will include 280 stations in the city of Chicago and its surrounding suburbs. The company has also partnered with Chicago Transit Authority and a number of other local commercial parking lot operators and property managers to launch the pilot. ZipCar is starting reservation rates at $10 per hour for the Chevrolet Volt – its prices are normally between $7.75 and $15.50 per hour.




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