Volkswagen has seen competing automakers BMW and Mercedes-Benz develop car-sharing programs using fuel-efficient vehicles. BMW is currently operating the DriveNow program in Munich alongside Sixt AG using MINI and 1 Series cars. Mercedes-Benz uses 200 Smart cars to serve more than 15,000 Car2Go subscribers living in Austin, Texas. These schemes are comparable to the Zipcar subscription model used in major cities throughout the United States. The Volkswagen Group announced the Quicar program last week that would help the automaker keep up with the competition.
The city of Hanover, Germany will work with Volkswagen to test the Quicar model. Volkswagen has slated 200 VW Golf BlueMotions as the first wave of rental vehicles available to subscribers in Hanover. The VW Golf BlueMotion is an ideal vehicle for the Quicar program with a fuel economy rating of 62 miles per gallon achieved with a start-stop system and regenerative braking. Representatives from Volkswagen noted that the Golf BlueMotion could be joined by the Beetle and the Caddy if Quicar is successful.
The Quicar subscription model resembles the Zipcar model in terms of efficiency and simplicity. Subscribers can consult with certified agents at businesses throughout Hanover to learn more about Quicar. The registration process can take place at kiosks within these businesses or via the Internet using mobile phones and personal computers. Quicar participants need only book the nearest available vehicle using the program’s online service up to five minutes before pickup. Each user receives an access card that must be held up to a sensor on the driver’s door to access the cockpit. The check-in process takes only seconds as subscribers need to enter their reservation PIN before the ignition is unlocked.
Volkswagen and Hanover officials have committed to 50 Quicar locations throughout the city from the start. These pick-up locations will be located at major intersections and popular businesses to attract the most subscribers. This collection of pick-up locations could increase to 100 with high demand. Quicar drivers need only return their vehicles to one of these locations to complete their journey. The price schedule for Quicar was not released though Volkswagen will likely use hourly and daily rates to meet subscriber needs. Volkswagen went beyond the basics in customizing the VW Golf BlueMotions with sound systems, GPS and digital music storage. The proliferation of car-sharing programs in Europe and North America should create competitive pricing as well as a reduction in traffic congestion.