–Ben Kwan, Attorney
About a year ago, funny little Smart Fortwo vehicles started popping up all over my neighborhood. I wondered whether there was some sort of European invasion taking place in Minneapolis. Whatever was happening, I just couldn’t see myself getting into one of those little blue and white roller skates.
A year later, I can’t seem to resist hunting one down, hopping in and getting where I need to go. We’ve been a one car household since about 2011 and it worked great until our car ended up parked in a suburban lot four days a week after my partner took a new job. What was I to do, especially after work when I wanted to bop around town but didn’t want to take two busses and a train to get where I wanted to go?
That’s where Car2go has been a marvelous addition to my life and the lives of myriad others here in Minneapolis (and around the world). Car2go, a carsharing service and Daimler AG subsidiary, has deployed some 10,000 Smart Fortwo vehicles in cities around the world, including Minneapolis. Other U.S. cities with Car2go include Austin, Washington, D.C., Denver, Portland, and Seattle.
Using Car2go draws a lot of funny looks from others sometimes, but I chalk it up to pure curiosity. In other words, I don’t think my personal brand is at stake, and I’d even be willing to post a selfie (though not while driving).
People do often ask how it works – it’s a bit of a mystery and perhaps that’s where the brand managers behind Car2go could do a little bit better with their messaging. I’m always intrigued that people are surprised to learn, from me, that Car2go is a one-way, point-to-point service. In other words, you can find one parked outside your office, drive it to any other point in the city, and then just leave it at your destination. No need to return it anywhere.
Car2go charges by the minute, with discounts for hourly and daily uses in some instances. The best part? The rates include the rental, gas, insurance, parking (yes, no need to plug a meter, just leave the car there), and maintenance. You sign up for a modest fee (I think I paid $25), the company runs a driving record check, and within a few days you get a membership card. The card provides access to the cars – and you can find and reserve the cars from a smartphone. It’s really simple.
The service hasn’t been a hit everywhere. This spring, Car2go announced that it was withdrawing from the UK, in part because of “the UK’s strong culture and tradition of private vehicle ownership…” I hope that statement isn’t a foreshadowing of things to come on this side of the pond, where private car ownership seems to be just as important. Indeed, whether Car2go is a hit here in Minneapolis is likely yet to be determined. I sure hope it is. According to a Reuters report on the company’s withdrawal from the UK, a Car2go company spokesman told the news organization that the service needed to achieve five to eight daily bookings to make it sustainable in the UK. In my relatively quiet neighborhood, I’ve seen a Car2go I parked on my street sit idle for a day.
Car2go isn’t without its trademark challenges, too. Service in France has been suspended indefinitely since 2012 because of another carsharing service in that marketplace called Car’ Go. Service is still suspended in Lyon and other French cities two years later.
I have high hopes for the Car2go brand — because for the foreseeable future, it’s going to be the one thing that keep me from having to pay hundreds of dollars a month to buy or lease, insure, maintain, and fuel a second car in the household.