Zipcar announced a new program today for urban dwellers who are willing to pay a monthly subscription for unlimited access to its vehicles during the work week. It’s a sign that the Avis Budget Group-owned company, in the face of new competition from legacy automakers, has aspirations to become the Netflix for cars.
The new service offers a vehicle for unlimited and exclusive use from 5AM Monday through 7PM Friday, at monthly fees of $199 to $299 depending on the city, plus 45 cents a mile in the US. The cost includes gas, insurance, maintenance, and cleaning, as well as a dedicated parking spot. Zipcar typically has offered membership plans that included a $70-a-year fee, plus an hourly and daily rate for the use of a vehicle.
The subscription program began as an experiment among a small group of commuters in New York City late last year. Now it will be available to Zipcar members who live in Boston, New York, Philadelphia, Chicago, San Francisco, Seattle, Toronto, and Washington, DC. The news was first reported by The Wall Street Journal.
Zipcar’s announcement comes at a time when traditional automakers are ramping up efforts to appeal to younger, city dwellers who don’t hold to the same notions of personal car ownership. The company has seen a rise in competition lately from other car-sharing services like Daimler’s Car2Go, GM’s Maven, and BMW’s Reach Now. And subscription services by Cadillac, Audi, and Porsche are charging monthly rates for unlimited access to vehicles.
Meanwhile, ride-hailing services like Uber and Lyft are in fierce battle over daily commutes and short, spur-of-the-moment trips. Car rental companies like Zipcar’s parent Avis are scrambling to adapt to the fast-changing atmosphere. One way is to offer fleet management services to self-driving car operators, like Avis recently announced it would be doing with Alphabet’s Waymo. Avis will clean and tend to Waymo’s vehicles, providing services like regular oil changes, but it won’t tinker with any of the self-driving hardware.