Thursday, April 14, 2011

ZipCar's Green, Tech-Savvy Appeal

ZipCar's much-anticipated IPO on the NASDAQ took place this week, raising millions more than the company expected. Although ZipCar hasn't yet reached profitability, it has gained a loyal following, particularly among younger urban residents and college/grad students who'd rather "share a car" (join and then rent for an hour or day) than own a car. Its fleet includes hybrids, BMWs, and other vehicles that can be used for vacationing, shopping, hauling, or whatever Zipsters (see below) need wheels to accomplish.

The target market being gadget-savvy, ZipCar makes it as easy as possible to reserve a car via app or text message or online. The ZipCard, above, unlocks a car parked at a pickup point (such as on campus or in a nearby neighborhood). Members are known as Zipsters because ZipCar is more than a source of transportation--it's a community (says the company) of people who care about the environment and want cost-effective, earth-friendly transportation alternatives.

Traditional rental car firms are easing into the "rent by the hour" movement (hybrids and all). However, the motivation for car sharing is different from renting, says the CEO of RelayRides, a car-sharing service that allows neighbors to share cars with neighbors. Meanwhile, ZipCar is expanding faster than ever and sees many new markets to penetrate in the coming years. Watch for ZipCars on local streets sometime soon.

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