Zipcar and Ford Team Up to Drive Carsharing on Campuses

Zipcar and Ford Team Up to Drive Carsharing on Campuses

In the canon of coming-of-age moments, owning your first car was once at the top of the list. But as Millennials take to the road, that seems to be changing. Now, for young drivers, getting one's first car-sharing membership could trump that first car purchase.

Zipcar and Ford announced today a partnership that the companies hope will give them a market advantage under this newly emerging status quo.

Under the agreement, Zipcar will expand its college campus fleet by adding 650 Ford models to 250 campuses around the country.

The new Ford Focuses and Ford Escapes will roll into them starting this week. Up to 1,000 new Fords could reach U.S. campuses over the two-year life of this deal. Currently, Zipcar's University program fleet accounts for about 10 percent of its overall fleet, which has about 9,000 (mostly foreign) cars in it.

The deal makes Ford the largest automotive source of cars in Zipcar’s University program. In return for getting to be the first non-parent-owned car many students will drive, Ford will subsidize the cost of the first 100,000 new student memberships by $10 and cutting the hourly rate for usage by $1 for the first million hours of use of any of the new Fords in the program. Zipcar annual membership is $35 and regular hourly rental rates are between $8 and $9 an hour.

Ford and Zipcar are likely to find a plethora of loyal and regular customers on college campuses. Young drivers between the ages of 20 and 30 drove about 2,000 fewer annual miles in 2008 [PDF] than that age group did in 2001, according to the Transportation Research Board.

In a study sponsored by Zipcar, nearly two-thirds of drivers between 18 and 24 said they would drive less if alternative transportation options were available and 45 percent of Millennials (ages 18 to 34) said they had consciously made an effort to reduce how much they drive.

Membership in Zipcar helps reduce emissions from driving, according to the company. Each car shared replaces at least 15 cars on the road and members reduce the amount they drive by about 50 percent when they switch to car sharing, said Zipcar spokesperson Colleen McCormik. Ford is touting one of the models coming to colleges under this deal, the Focus, as "a good match for Zipcar’s environmentally minded student members who demand high fuel efficiency." It gets 40 miles per gallon.

Growing Zipcar's presence on campuses will help colleges as well. Putting 100 cars in 100 parking spots will serve more than 100 students, reducing the need for parking spots and the cost of maintaining them. One surface parking spot costs about $700 annually in a suburban environment, according to a 2011 study by Victoria Transport Policy Institute [PDF]. In an urban environment, the cost for one parking spot can rocket past $2,000 a year.

"Parking tends to be limited on college campuses," McCormik said. "Colleges are often faced with the question about whether to build a new library or a new parking lot. More often than not they would like to focus on education."

Photo CC-licensed by NCinDC.