“A lot of people doubted the feasibility of our model,” says Paul DeLong, car2go President and General Manager for North America, “but we proved them wrong. Today, we are the largest car-sharing network in the world.”
Launched in 2008 by Daimler, car2go has revolutionized the concept of car sharing, removing the stresses of a typical rental by allowing members to borrow a smartcar without booking ahead, and then return it at their leisure.
DeLong had no trouble convincing the audience about the benefits of the business model while on stage at this year’s C2 Montréal, a conference on innovation whose guests included Martha Stewart and Michelin-starred chef Massimo Bottura, among others. Because car2go not only improves the quality of life of its 1.4 million users in 28 cities around the world, it also provides a potential solution to mobility problems in urban centres.
“Currently, about 50 percent of the world population lives in cities, and by 2050 it will be 70 percent,” explains DeLong. So what better vehicle than a smart fortwo to navigate the new frontiers of the urban jungle? It’s a vehicle content with half a parking space, one whose three-cylinder, 89-hp engine offers the ultimate in energy efficiency.
The positive effects are already being felt: A recent independent study of one-way car sharing in North America found that each car2go removed up to 11 vehicles from city streets (and 14 metric tons of greenhouse gases).
For their part, select Canadians can borrow a Mercedes-Benz B-Class through a pilot project set up in Toronto, Calgary and Vancouver. “The majority of our members are between 20 and 35, and they’re starting to have children. So it makes sense to add four-door vehicles to our fleet.”
DeLong’s bold vision: a world in which the car2go fleet is composed of self-driving cars.
So how will car2go continue to expand into the future? DeLong mentions that it has just penetrated the Chinese market, but his vision is bolder: a world in which Daimler’s car2go fleet is composed of self-driving cars. “We were the first to build a car, and the first to create a network of car sharing in this way. We hope to be the first to make the autonomous car possible.”