In a world that’s home to one billion cars that sit unused the majority of the time, the concept of sharing a vehicle only when you need it – versus owning one 100 percent of the time – is catching on.
As has been the case in many industries, sweeping lifestyle changes brought on by the pandemic and increased consumer embrace of technology are proving to be a catalyst for the mental mindset change required to disrupt the traditional car ownership regime.
“What we’ve seen over the last 10 years is people willing to move away from car ownership, to live car-free and to rely on Getaround as one of their core, reliable mobility solutions,” Getaround CEO Sam Zaid told PYMNTS in a recent interview. “Whether it’s five or 10 years away, there will be a world where the predominant mode of using a car is a shared one, not the private-owned, exclusive use one,” Zaid said, pointing to the cost, waste and inefficiency of buying a car and parking it 95 percent of the time.
COVID And Competitors
When the pandemic lockdowns hit the world in March, Getaround’s revenue plunged 75 percent, Zaid said of his 11-year-old business, which now serves five million users in 300 cities and seven countries. However, over the past few months, business has steadily bounced back, in part because Getaround offered a true contactless experience versus its traditional rental competitors.
“We attribute a big part of the success to the fact that our system is, has been and continues to be fully contactless,” he said. “You don’t have to meet anybody. You don’t have to wait in a line, you don’t have to fill out paperwork. It’s a fully digital, native, contactless booking and pickup experience.”
Getaround offers a combination of software and hardware to users. The hardware component consists of an adapter that fits into any car and converts it into a connected vehicle, while the company’s app interfaces with this hardware and allows users to book, track, unlock and pay for the vehicle they want. While there are several other car-sharing platforms in existence, Zaid said the pandemic has actually reduced competition.
“We don’t have that many competitors,” he said. “More recently, we have seen a lot of OEMs coming into the space, but all of them – either before or during COVID – have since refocused on their core business, so it’s definitely a market we’re building and pioneering.”
Keeping It Clean
At a time when consumers don’t want to share or touch anything with people they don’t know, the idea of getting into someone else’s car poses some unique challenges. To that point, Zaid says Getaround has implemented a three-pronged strategy to keep renters and sharers feeling safe.
First, the company budgets in time buffers between trips, which Zaid said allows for some degree of self-sterilization. Second, owners have been instructed to put disposable sanitization and disinfection wipes in their cars, and renters are also encouraged to take whatever precautions they deem necessary. Finally, the company has put contact tracing and quarantine protocols in place that immediately deactivate a car for 72 hours upon notice of any sort of potential contamination.
The Car-Sharing Use Case
The typical car-sharing customer, Zaid said, is an urban consumer who either wants to run errands for an hour or two or wants to get out of town for the weekend or a vacation. But unlike traditional car rental customers who rent a car maybe once or twice a year, the average Getaround renter uses the service more frequently, potentially several times a week or several times a month.
“[Car sharing] makes up a lot more of their habitual transportation usage, so that’s our core consumer,” he explained.
As part of the company’s sustainability mission “to take cars off the road everywhere” by empowering people to car-share everywhere, Zaid points out the built-in efficiencies that come with sharing versus owning. In fact, he said research shows that people who share their cars reduce their vehicle miles traveled by over 40 percent.
“When you buy a car and it’s a sunk cost sitting in your driveway, you just hop in the car and go drive down the street to the corner store and pick up a carton of milk,” Zaid said. “You don’t do that when you’re in a shared mode – you actually are a little bit more contemplative, you plan better, and consequently, you reduce your miles traveled through more efficient and rational use.”
As far as the future is concerned, Zaid predicts the business will continue to rebound and will soon eclipse pre-COVID levels. As far as disruption of personal car ownership is concerned, Zaid is happy to play a part in that, too.
“If we can play a role in building a better world where not everybody owns a car and not everybody needs a car and we don’t have massive congestion, I think we will be ecstatic that we’ve helped the world become a better place and achieved our mission,” he said.