Enterprise Holdings, the car rental behemoth that includes the brands Alamo, National and of course, Enterprise, acquired Zimride from Lyft, Inc. on Friday. Zimride, founded in 2007, is the largest web-based car sharing and ride-matching network in North America with over 350,000 users heavily concentrated within 130 university and corporate campuses.
The acquisition continues Enterprise’s foray into the car sharing space. The company has purchased such services in Boston, New York, Philadelphia and, most recently, IGO CarSharing of Chicago. But earlier this year, the company’s head of corporate sustainability dismissed car sharing in an article posted on TriplePundit. Lee Broughton cited a study touting the advantages of car sharing and insisted car rental services already offered consumers similar benefits. The Zimride purchase is a likely indicator that the start-up had desirable technology and services Enterprise previously lacked.
So, with the purchase of Zimride, Enterprise now sings a different tune, and in a press release even declares the company has been a leader in the sharing economy and car sharing space:
“Enterprise has been delivering transportation alternatives right where people live and work since 1957, an early example of today’s “collaborative consumption” trend. Forty years later, it trademarked the term Virtual Car, after recognizing the long-term impact of such a sustainable neighborhood-based business model. Today, Enterprise currently operates almost twice as many locations as its nearest U.S. competitor, with more than 5,500 offices located within 15 miles of 90 percent of the U.S. population.” – Enterprise press release sent to Leon Kaye, July 12, 2013.
So apparently having more locations than any other company and offices in neighborhoods makes the company a forward-thinking sustainable transportation service (mind you, Enterprise is one of the many car rental companies notorious for trying to “upgrade” you from an economical car to the largest SUV and touts such a bait-and-switch, with the additional fuel purchase, as a “deal”).
According to Enterprise, the company will integrate Zimride’s software within the company’s technological infrastructure. With 350,000 users, the acquisition will also offer Enterprise rich opportunities in data mining to learn about Zimride’s customer base’s commuting habits. In the long run, Zimride’s customers could have more options for traversing across their home cities or across the state; but on the other hand, Enterprise may just absorb Zimride’s technology and the six-year-old carpooling social network could eventually disappear—a foolish path for Enterprise to follow should the company take that route.
Regardless of the outcome, car sharing is here to stay. Urbanization, the increasing price of fossil fuels, and demographic trends indicating teens and young adults are delaying the rite of passage called a driver’s license are long-term challenges for automakers—and the car rental companies who are amongst their largest customers. If Zimride disappears, a similar service will not only fill its shoes, but will be even more cutting-edge if the history of internet-based services is a reliable indicator.
Based in Fresno, California, Leon Kaye is the editor of GreenGoPost.com and frequently writes about business sustainability strategy. Leon also contributes to Guardian Sustainable Business; his work has also appeared on Sustainable Brands, Inhabitat and Earth911. You can follow Leon and ask him questions on Twitter or Instagram (greengopost).
[Image credit: Leon Kaye]