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Model – Car-sharing Business Gains Traction

Posted in Models by Flexicar on August 2nd, 2007

Flexicar profiled in Melbourne’s Age Newspaper. July 30th 2007

OVER beers in the pub and several dinner parties, Monique Conheady and some university friends pulled together the business plan for Flexicar, a membership-based car-share business.

“The profile is inner-city working professionals who don’t own a car and catch public transport to work,” Ms Conheady, Flexicar’s chief executive, said.

“We then have a second car market, which are inner-city couples with families with one car and occasionally need a second. The third part of our target market is inner-city businesses.”

To become a member of Flexicar people join online, and receive a membership card that allows them to make a booking online.

Cars are parked in designated spots near shopping centres and public transport hubs. The cars are activated by swiping a smart card over a reader, which unlocks doors and deactivates the engine demobiliser. The keys are already in the car.

Flexicar members pay an up-front joining fee, plus a monthly fee and an hourly rate for car use. The cost of membership covers the time and distance travelled, petrol, insurance and registration.

“We offer a different alternative to businesses to one owning a fleet or the opposite, taxis or car rental,” Ms Conheady said.

Cars are cleaned and maintained on a weekly basis. Ms Conheady said members generally took care with the vehicles, more so than with a traditional rental car since they used the Flexicar system regularly.

The car-share business is growing fast. Flexicar owned just 12 cars and had 300 members last year.

“Twelve months later we have 45 cars and 1200 members. Growth has been almost 400 per cent in the past 12 months,” Ms Conheady said.

There are also environmental benefits in car sharing, with an estimated one car share taking between six and 10 vehicles off the road.

“Members of a car-share service increase their use of walking, cycling and public transport use because they think about the real costs of the car,” Ms Conheady said.

Although car sharing is relatively new to Australia, it has long been a popular choice of transport in San Francisco. In 2001, a group of Californian transport activists launched City CarShare with the help of several local non-profit companies and the cities of San Francisco, Oakland, and Berkeley.

“We’ve enjoyed strong community support from the beginning and have partnered successfully with local transportation agencies and other community groups,” City CarShare said.

Flexicar is available in Melbourne and Sydney. Similar services operate in the same cities, such as GoGet.

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