Carmakers must chase drivers who can bear to share

Whether you call it “car-sharing” or “communi-cars” one thing is guaranteed: American consumers, especially Millennials, are seeking alternatives to traditional car ownership. And, if your automotive company’s designers don’t keep the pace, it may soon be left in the dust.

Zipping open shared design strategies

Katelyn Chelsey is a Detroit-based public relations specialist for Zipcar. She said that the majority of the company’s customers appreciate the company’s wide array of vehicle types, in addition to their availability in the evening and on weekends.

“Zipcar has more than 50 makes and models in our fleet and each vehicle is equipped with a telematics kit that connects to our software systems,” Chelsey said. “We are continuously updating our fleet to provide the best, newest vehicles on the market. We install a kit into each vehicle regardless of make or model. Our members love the ability to choose the right vehicle for each trip – from compact cars, hybrids, convertibles and SUVs, to cargo vans and pickup trucks.”

Chelsey believes that maintaining a variety of vehicle options from carmakers has contributed to her company’s success.

“In cities across the globe, more and more people are choosing to not own a vehicle, and instead share them,” Chelsey said. “Vehicle manufacturers have clearly taken notice of this trend are eager to partner with us. Our OEM partners love the brand loyalty that our members develop when using one of their cars in our fleet. So, when a member’s context changes and they move outside of the city to an area where they need to own a car, they have already developed a brand loyalty.”

She said the industry understands that in cities, car sharing will continue to grow in popularity.

“We have more than 10,000 vehicles in our global fleet, consisting of 50 makes and models such as hybrids, SUVs, pickup trucks, luxury vehicles, minivans and cargo vans,” Chelsey said. “Our members choose specific makes and models depending on their needs: moving into a new apartment, traveling to a business meeting, or a quick trip to the grocery store. We give them the flexibility to have wheels when and where they want them.”

Ford shifts from research to reality

Ford recently announced the next phase of its Ford Smart Mobility plan, which focuses on car sharing efforts, new pilot programmes and new mobility product experiments. Ford spokesperson Whitney Delano Pineda reports that the changes account for car-sharing trends.

“Following six months of gathering statistics and consumer feedback, Ford is focusing on two strategic areas – flexible use and ownership of vehicles, and multimodal urban travel solutions,” Pineda said.

The company’s consumer finance division, Ford Motor Credit, recently launched Peer-2-Peer Car Sharing – a pilot for select customers in six U. cities and in London. Ford Credit invited 14,000 US customers in six cities to rent their Ford Credit-financed vehicles to pre-screened drivers for short-term use, which helps to offset monthly vehicle ownership costs. US customers use the web-based, mobile-friendly software of ride-share company Getaround. The pilot is being offered to select Ford Credit customers in California – including Berkeley, Oakland and San Francisco; as well as in Portland, Oregon; Chicago and Washington, D.C.

The Ford programme follows marketing trends primarily launched by Generation Z (ages 16-22) and Millennials (ages 23-34). The corporation is actively chasing interests of younger drivers, using findings from Penn Schoen Berland, an independent research company. Their research suggests that young Americans rank car rides second only to book lending as things they are most open to sharing. More than half of them report being open to sharing car rides with others.

Consumers were asked which design features and amenities were most important to them. Below are key components desired by Millennials.

•          Understandable fares and travel times

•          Comfortable personal space

•          High-tech amenities such as wi-fi

•          Space for luggage

•          Pick-up and drop-off points that are located within a five-minute walking distance from the consumer’s destination.

Pineda said that Ford designers are also launching multimodal mobility solutions in large cities. The MoDe:Flex, Ford’s third versatile eBike, folds and stores inside any Ford vehicle, where it can be charged while stowed. An associated eyes-free phone app displays real-time information regarding weather, parking fees, health and fitness data, projected travel time, traffic congestion and public transportation.

“In some municipal areas, driving your vehicle from home to work is not practical,” Pineda said. “Ford is offering a new electric bike and a prototype smartphone app that makes using the eBike easier for urban commutes.”

Uber space for baggage

Zipcar and Ford have company on the shared road. Uber is also motivated to offer sharable solutions for its consumers. Seattle Uber driver, Kevin Larsen, who counts himself among the Millennial generation, said that ample luggage storage is the most important feature he and other Uber drivers seek in a new car.

“By 30, Millennials don’t want to be constantly giving their friends rides to the airport,” Larsen said, laughing. “A lot of my business is shuttling younger adults to and from their flights. We need more luggage space!”


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