Why many car sharing offers fail

car sharing

Parking for car sharing vehicles. (Image: taikrixel / iStock)

Use instead of own: Car sharing is a promising model for the mobility of the future – and a prime example of the “sharing economy”. Nevertheless, many providers in Germany have already failed. Researchers have now investigated why and what features a car sharing offer accepted by users must have. Your result: Promises with electric cars, monthly “flat rate” and full service are promising.

Carsharing is supposed to offer a more environmentally friendly alternative to owning a car, especially in cities. You no longer have a car, but share the use of freely available rental cars. The location of the next available car, access and billing are usually communicated using a mobile app. The advantages are obvious: Rental cars reduce the parking space requirement, reduce the number of cars in metropolitan areas and can also reduce emissions if the vehicles are electric cars – at least that is the theory.

What makes a car sharing offer successful?

In practice, however, car sharing does not really get going and even experiences setbacks. After several car manufacturers and service providers followed the favorable growth forecasts for such offers and launched car sharing services with partly different concepts, several had to give up again – it was not profitable. But why? Rüdiger Hahn from Heinrich Heine University Düsseldorf and his colleagues have now investigated the possible reasons for this. For their study, the researchers questioned potential and actual users and non-users of a car sharing offer in Stuttgart about the reasons for their acceptance or rejection. Based on 2820 individual evaluations, they then analyzed which characteristics are most relevant for consumers.

“Our results reveal that a positive attitude towards car sharing alone does not mean that people accepted these offers,” the researchers report. “Instead, the key lies in the compatibility of the offer with the lifestyle and needs of potential users.” In other words, whether a car sharing service is successful or not depends on the specific modalities of the offer – from the payment mode to the vehicle fleet for service. And this is exactly where many previous providers have failed: “It became clear that the offer did not match the actual mobility needs of the target group”, report the study directors Marion Büttgen and Adrian Lehr from the University of Hohenheim.

Flexible, electric and with full service

The surveys specifically revealed: Offers are desired that follow the so-called free-floating concept. Vehicles can be picked up and parked anywhere in the district without being tied to fixed stations. With the price model, potential users prefer a fixed monthly fee as a “flat rate” for any number of trips compared to billing each individual trip. The type of vehicle is obviously also important: a large proportion of the participants indicated that they would prefer to use car sharing with electric cars. “This preference for electric vehicles does not necessarily have to be due to increased environmental awareness,” say the researchers. Instead, e-mobility could be attractive as an expression of a modern, hip lifestyle.

Another important factor for acceptance is obviously a high degree of comfort and service: users expect a full-service offer, with which they do not have to worry about refueling or cleaning the car. “The results show the high level of consumer demand, which is still based on private cars and can be very costly for the car sharing operator,” explains Lehr. “This also explains why only a few car sharing offers have so far been really economical. The providers should therefore focus on the essential factors. It will show in the future how the comparatively young market develops and whether the trend towards a consolidation of the offers continues. “

Source: University of Hohenheim; Technical article: Business Strategy and the Environment, doi: 10.1002 / bse.2441

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