44 percent fewer miles than when they owned a car, leaving an average of 219 gallons of crude oil in the ground. Multiply all this out by 11 000 cars in Zipcar’s fleet, and that’s a pretty substantial impact on the environment. But it wasn’t long before Griffith realized that if Zipcar was going to grow, it needed to move beyond just being green. So the brand has broadened its positioning to include other urban lifestyle benefits, based on the most common needs consumers have: I don’t want the hassle of owning a car; I want to save money; I take public transit, but need a car sometimes; Once in a while I need a second car; I need a big car for a big job; and I want to impress my boss. Another important benefit Zipcar offers its target market is convenience. Owning a car in a densely populated urban area can be a real hassle. Zipcar lets customers focus on driving, not on the complexities of car ownership.
Fulfilling Consumer Needs Zipcar operates on a membership plan. To join, you pay around $60 for an annual membership and receive your personal Zipcard, which unlocks any Zipcar vehicle located in urban areas around the world. Then, when you need a car, reserve one—minutes or months in advance— online, by phone, or using a smartphone app. You can choose the car you want, when and where you want it, and drive it for as little as $7.50 an hour, including gas, insurance, and free miles. When you’re ready, walk to the car, hold your Zipcard to the windshield to unlock the doors, and you’re good to go. When you’re done, you drop the car off at the same parking spot—Zipcar worries about the maintenance and cleaning. Zipcar not only eliminates the hassle of urban car ownership, it also saves money. By living with less, the average Zipster saves $600 a month on car payments, insurance, gas, maintenance, and other car ownership expenses. That’s like getting a $10 000 a year raise after taxes. In an era when consumers have become more frugal, this is a big plus, especially for those looking to live more minimally. Zipcar isn’t for everyone—it doesn’t try to be. Instead, it zeros in on a narrowly defined urban lifestyle positioning. For starters, Zipcar “pods” (a dozen or so vehicles located in a given neighbourhood) are stocked from a portfolio of over 50 different models that trendy urbanites love. The vehicles are both hip and fuel efficient: Toyota Priuses, Honda CRVs, MINIs, Volvo S60s, BMW 328s, Toyota Tacomas, Toyota Siennas, Subaru Outbacks, and others. And Zipcar now has plug-in hybrids, fully electric vehicles, and full-size vans for big jobs. Each car has its own personality—a name and profile created by a Zipster. For example, Prius Ping “jogs in the morning; doesn’t say much,” whereas Civic Carlos “teaches yoga; loves to kayak.” Such personal touches make it feel as if you’re borrowing the car from a friend rather than being assigned whatever piece of metal happens to be available.
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