- Won't you join? We charge by the minute! (Photo: Facebook/Car2Go.DC)
In the tale of two car-sharing launches, Car2Go D.C. wins the prize for most enthusiastic. The smartcar-focused car-sharing company, with its U.S. headquarters based in Austin, will launch in the nation's capital on March 24 with about 200 vehicles — in little over a week. A month ago most people barely knew the company's name but now, it's hard to look anywhere and miss its presence. Its pre-launch buzz makes a strong contrast to the launch of Hertz On Demand in February. Do most people even realize Hertz On Demand launched here in 2012? Despite the heft of Hertz, Car2Go is quickly becoming the company to watch.
Consider how the most recent Zipcar competitor has blitzed the town's media with its advertising. You see the ads so far, by my count, here at TBD, at Washington City Paper, at The Washington Post, on DCist, and in the pages of Express. "A better way to car-share is coming to D.C.," the company announces in its dynamic, cute promotions, with Fortwos racing by. Any D.C. metro area resident can already sign up for the service (the promo code "capital" lets you waive the $35 application and receive 30 minutes free), and based off of Twitter chatting, several already have, including Councilmember Tommy Wells.
"Took awhile," Wells tweeted, "but I'm looking forward to trying it.
Car2Go D.C. also presents two different versions of its website now, I've noticed. The old layout is still here, but there's also the splashier new one here. The new site also announces, in big dramatic letters, FREE EVENT and says:
car2go is coming to Washington, D.C. Join us for free food, promos and swag as we celebrate the launch of a better way to carshare.
The celebration will take place at Busboys and Poets, first at its 5th and K location on Saturday, March 24 from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. and then again for the same hours on Sunday, March 25 at 14th and V spot. Busboys lists the events as a "Ride and Drive."
The local Car2Go team has been reaching out not only in advertising, I'll also note, but in what they're calling "promo teams," which venture out into the city to spread awareness. These Car2Go representatives have apparently made appearances at grocery stores, street corners, and elsewhere, as in the photo above, to explain the service and encourage people to join. On their site, company officials also invite curious District residents to come to their headquarters at 1710 Rhode Island Avenue NW to "take a test drive today."
Car2Go seems sleek enough to pull off its aggressive marketing so far. The ads and outreach make sense. Out of the three D.C. car-sharing options — Zipcar, Car2Go, and Hertz On Demand — Car2Go seems most poised to pull potential car-sharers away from Zipcar. It certainly has enough personality to match the cultivated quirk that Zipcar has skillfully built for the past decade, from its Twitter account to its individually named cars to its office cat. Hertz On Demand initially has little to distinguish its car-sharing in any similar way and started small and quietly, launching with 20 cars rather than 200. Its goal is to roll out 100 over its first phase and perhaps in time, its slow and steady approach (buttressed by a national car rental service) will make it a worthy competitor in its own right ... but it certainly has steered clear of the public consciousness, unlike Car2Go.
Car2Go D.C. Rates
Application: $35; Per Minute: 38 cents plus tax; Per Hour: $13.99 plus tax; Per Day: $72.99 plus tax; Per mile after 150 mile per rental: 45 cents plus tax.