Car-sharing service zips into Asia, but yet to make inroads among travellers and agents

Avis' car-sharing service rolls into Asia with Taipei as the launch city

The car-sharing concept was rolled out to Asia when Avis Budget Group’s Zipcar Taiwan launched in 2018 with Taipei selected as the first major city in Asia for the launch, but agents are skeptical about the concept taking off among the region’s travellers.

Zipcar currently has almost 10,000 members sharing a fleet of 100 Volkswagen and Audi cars.

While there are no complete plans on where this service will be launched next, the group’s global sales and partnerships head, Juila Kemp, believes car-sharing is gaining momentum among the Chinese. She cited research by consumer insights firm JD Power showing that in 2017 more than half of the respondents (from mainland China and Hong Kong) know about timeshare car rentals and 70 per cent of them are willing to try them out.

Avis’ car-sharing service rolls into Asia with Taipei as the launch city for the region

She said: “Consumers in China and Hong Kong also have had good satisfaction from using ride-hailing apps, and we think this positive sentiment may make them more open to trying car-sharing.

For now, challenges in getting car-sharing off the ground in China and Hong Kong include the lack of industry standards, dedicated parking and safety regulations.

Government support is needed when it comes to managing dedicated parking as well as lifting restrictions on vehicle licences for shared vehicles.

For outbound travellers, industry stakeholders in China and Hong Kong are yet to see the car-sharing potentials.

Ctrip, chief business officer, overseas car rental business, Lei Fang, said: “While self-drive holiday is very popular in North America, Australia, New Zealand and Thailand, car-sharing concept is not mature for the Chinese. For sure, this will be a future trend but it has not taken off yet. It may take time to test the idea, just like with Airbnb (initially), I reckon FIT budget travel websites like qyer.com and www.lvy.cn better match with such demand. Still, the key challenge is to build customers’ trust first.”

Guangzhou-based Zuzuche.com, chairman of the board, Ben Lee, also does not see strong demand for car-sharing. He explained: “The majority of our clients travel with family or colleagues, (which requires additional seats). Also, there is the luggage issue when you share car with the others. Most car-sharing may happen for short distance so it may be relevant to backpackers’ point-to point services but Chinese travellers usually experience long-distance journey covering multi destinations.

Unlike car rental and other private transport options, car-sharing does not come with the option of hiring a chauffeur, which may be a requirement for those who are not comfortable with driving and navigating in a new country.

Connexus Travel, managing director, Gloria Slethaug, pointed out that the core market for car-sharing may be limited to those with short, fixed itineraries to specific destinations.

“Car-sharing is practically a taxi service with a variety of cars, however with some countries or cities being unregulated or without proper license – hence the target audience is different. Car-sharing service is usually for shorter time frame including one to two hours’ usage, while it is only available for some cities with usually electric car and a fixed parking bay.”

In comparison, existing car rental options offer the flexibility for pick up and drop off at more points in destination cities and airports.

Hertz Hong Kong, manager, Jo Law, similarly does not see a big market for the service in travel and tourism. “For business travellers handled by TMCs, car-sharing would not be a proper option due to current corporate policy and the grey area of insurance coverage. For leisure travellers, self-drive tour is more than transportation, it is an experience and travel style. Car-sharing is more targeted to local resident and to save transportation cost.”

Correction: The article earlier stated that Avis currently has almost 10,000 members sharing a fleet of 100 Volkswagen and Audi cars. It should be Zipcar. The story has been updated. 

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