Mention the name Daimler, and most people think of Mercedes-Benz. Many wouldn’t equate the world’s most famous manufacturer of luxury cars with an economy vehicle, and certainly not one that promotes North America’s newest niche market: the sharing economy.
But Daimler’s 89-year history has given it an advantage when it comes to sizing up what people want in an affordable city vehicle – especially in a metropolis where the cost of gas, parking and the carbon footprint are major considerations. Luxury and roomy interiors are great when you have the time to enjoy them, but as Daimler AG’s Car2go brand has proven, small is still mighty when it comes to efficient transportation on urban streets.
Car2go, which opened in 2008 and now has locations in more than 15 cities around the world, recently opened its newest office in Seattle, Washington which is known for its eco-conscious focus and abundant recreational attractions. Car2Go, says Corporate Communications Manager Katie Stafford, fits right in with the Northwest urban lifestyle that thrives on diversity and relies on accessible transportation.
“(Car2Go members) are people who really love living an urban lifestyle," says Stafford. “The live in a city, they love the fact that they have access to multiple forms of transportation and they want the freedom to use something when they need it and only pay for that when they are using it.”
She says this follows a trend seen in today's economy. “People are sharing more goods and services, and Car2Go is a great example of that.”
Where rental cars generally require a customer to come to the office first, Daimler’s vehicles come to the customer – in the form of a broadly designated parking lot called the home area. In the case of Seattle, much of the city is considered the home area, which allows users to pick up and drop off the shared vehicle on most streets throughout the city. Stafford says the current home area of 42 square miles extends from 103rd Street at the north end, to Lander at the south, and from the Puget Sound at its western boundary to Lake Washington at its eastern edge. Although the home area contains many of the more popular residential and commercial sections of the city (including the downtown core), Stafford says the current home area is only a starting point and may expand in the future.
And while the home area doesn't currently include residential and commercial areas east of Lake Washington, she says that market research has showed that this type of service can directly benefit commuters who live in those outlying areas, like Bellevue, Kirkland and Renton.
As with every service, there are a few restrictions: The car must be picked up and dropped off in the home area and can’t be parked in spots that convert to lanes in rush hour (an important limitation to note in Seattle). But commuters who need to get to appointments quickly and don’t want to hassle with the standard costs and requirements of owning a car (or a second family car) often come out ahead. Car2go pays for all of the costs related to owning a vehicle - even the gas and parking. It also gives free minutes to users who top off the gas using the vehicle's cardkey.
For those who also have their eye on the carbon footprint, Stafford points out that the Car2Go model gets 32 miles to the gallon on the highway and are designed for urban driving. Plus, the vehicles come with a graphics feature on the dash that keep drivers informed as to how well they are driving - environmentally, that is. Drivers who are light on the CO2 emissions are rewarded with graphics of a balanced and green environment in the form of a thriving tree, grass and birds; drivers who are less diplomatic with the gas peddle will see a less happy and green environment. Stafford says the graphics actually help drivers become more environmentally conscious behind the wheel.
Drivers are typically required to purchase a membership with Car2Go to access its vehicles. At the moment, however, Daimler is waiving the cost of membership as an introductory offer, and is throwing in 30 free minutes of driving in the Seattle Metro Area. It will be interesting to see how well this new enterprise fares in Seattle, which is known for its cutting-edge enterprises and ongoing efforts to reduce its carbon footprint.
Jan Lee is a former news editor and award-winning editorial writer whose non-fiction and fiction have been published in the U.S., Canada, Mexico, the U.K. and Australia. Her articles and posts can be found on TriplePundit, JustMeans, and her blog, The Multicultural Jew, as well as other publications. She currently splits her residence between the city of Vancouver, British Columbia and the rural farmlands of Idaho.