Is Car Sharing Running Out of Gas?

can be reached at nkurczewski@yahoo.com
can be reached at nkurczewski@yahoo.com
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Car2Go, one of the world’s largest free-floating car sharing services, recently announced it was discontinuing service in five cities throughout North America. In a blog post, the company said it had “underestimated the investment and resources that are truly necessary to make our service successful in these complex transportation markets amid a quickly-changing mobility landscape.”

  • Car2Go is owned by Share Now, a mobility company co-owned by BMW and Daimler.
  • The company has approximately 4 million members worldwide and a fleet of roughly 20,000 vehicles.
  • Via a blog post, Car2Go announced it would end service in Chicago; Portland, Oregon; Austin, Texas; Denver; and Calgary, Canada.

Car2Go Smart car
Car2Go is coming to the end of the road in five major metropolitan areas in the U.S. and Canada. (Photo: Car2Go)

Little notice

Imagine starting your day and heading to your car to begin a daily commute. Except on this morning, your car is gone. Granted, if you’re a private car owner, the clues here all point to grand theft auto. But if you’re someone who relies on shared mobility services, like free-floating car shares, it could mean your company of choice has suddenly pulled up stakes and left town.

Car2Go posted their notice on September 27; the statement said all service in the affected cities would end by October 31. Chicago was the sole exception, with the Windy City getting a reprieve until December 31. For frequent users of Car2Go in these markets, having one month’s notice that their means of getting around would be brought to a screeching halt could make for a messy scramble to find other solutions.

LimePod Fiat 500
Only offered in Seattle, LimePod was a short-lived car share that is set to close by year’s end. (Photo: Lime)

More shakeups in Seattle

Does this news point to bigger issues with shared mobility? There are signs the car-share market is shifting and adapting to increased competition. Car2Go says the transportation market in North America is “highly volatile” and the company would be refocusing on efforts in cities including New York; Washington, D.C.; Seattle; Vancouver, Canada; and Montreal.

This news follows a recent announcement from Lime, a leader in electric bike and scooter rentals, that it’s own pilot car-share program would be closing soon. LimePod was the company’s first foray into the automotive world and the program was offered only in Seattle. Like other free-floating car shares, the vehicles were not parked in one set location. A user would simply put the vehicle in a legal parking spot, where it was ready and waiting for the next person to unlock it using a smartphone app and/or QR code scanner. New applicants to LimePod will be halted on October 31, and the entire program will be shut down by year’s end. Lime did leave the door open to returning to the car-share market, though potentially with a fleet of electric vehicles, versus the gas-powered Fiat hatchbacks used in Seattle.

Strike two

While the loss of one or two car shares might not be cause for alarm, warning signs do start going off when major automakers stop mobility services altogether, particularly when it occurs in the same cities.

It was only this summer when ReachNow, a ride-hailing and car-share service, was similarly closed with very little warning. The company had been operating for about three years in Brooklyn, New York, as well as Seattle and Portland, Oregon. The corporate owners of ReachNow happen to be BMW and Daimler, and the upstart company had only recently been combined with the more widely-known Car2Go service.

WHY THIS MATTERS

It’s two swings and two misses when it comes to BMW and Daimler’s ongoing ventures in the car-share market. While growing pains are inevitable for any new industry, the contraction of car shares in large metropolitan areas signals that these mobility solutions remain a work in progress.


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can be reached at nkurczewski@yahoo.com
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