Wheels24

Daimler, BMW take battle to city

2012-05-14 12:03

BERLIN, Germany - Feeling the pressure from BMW and its Mini subsidiary, Daimler is said to be flooding Berlin with Smart cars as its makes a play for Europe’s emerging rent-by-the-minute urban car market.

The cars have been installed in the largest fleet of the German city automaker’s Car2go short term rental scheme, Detroit News reported, as direct competition for BMW AG’s DriveNow service. The Daimler fleet, however, numbers two cars versus every one from BMW.

Detroit News also reports the aggressive pursuit of drivers in the German capital is part of the feuding automakers’ efforts to win over urban consumers. The city-based services allow drivers to rent cars by the minute and, consulting group Frost and Sullivan predicts, Europeans subscribing to these car-sharing systems are expected to increase from 700 000 at the end of 2011 to about R15-million by 2020.

BIGGER PICTURE

For Daimler the Car2go service also forms part of a strategy to retake the luxury-car lead from BMW by the end of the decade – a goal that rests largely on Daimler’s success in appealing to younger drivers.

Stefan Bratzel, director of the Center of Automotive Management at the University of Applied Sciences in Bergisch Gladbach, Germany, said: "Car-sharing is like a test drive that's paid for. It offers a chance to open the door to customers that might not have considered a car and helps the image."

BMW's DriveNow, which also operates in Munich and Dusseldorf, has been left playing catch-up. Daimler’s Car2go has expanded to 12 cities and plans to add an average of one city a month during 2012. Car2go, Detroit News reports, has 85 000 customers, while DriveNow has 27 000.

Both services allow customers to start and end a rental anywhere in the service area, making one-way trips the norm.

Experts, however, predict the Car2go programme’s focus on the Smart two-seater may prove to be its stumbling block since the BMW programme offers uses a selection of cars, ranging from Mini to 1 Series and X1.

Michael Fischer, spokesman for DriveNow in Berlin said: "Car-sharing also has to be cool. It was a niche, green service – we want to be sustainable – but lifestyle is also important."