Car clubs are queuing up to attract new business from the public and private sector by highlighting the advantages they could bring.
Billed as the low cost, low risk and low carbon alternative, they see ‘significant’ potential in the corporate sector.
For example, Carplus, the national charity tasked with promoting car clubs, is in the midst of a series of seminars aimed at businesses, while car clubs are also investing time and money in developing the market.
However, they recognize many organizations have still to fully grasp the benefits car clubs could bring, which was recently highlighted by the shadow minister for transport Stephen Hammond MP (Fleet News, March 18).
“Car club membership offers businesses a cost effective and greener alternative to running a fleet of pool cars and paying employees’ mileage expenses for using their own cars,” explained James Finlayson, managing director of City Car Club.
“It also removes many of the duty of care issues associated with grey fleet vehicles and pool cars, with the car club operator responsible for licence checking, vehicle maintenance and insurance.”
City Car Club has more than 500 cars in 13 cities across the UK, including London, Leeds, Manchester and Birmingham, and says that around 8,000 (40%) of its members hail from the corporate sector.
As with many car clubs, members can book a car for as little as 30 minutes and access the vehicle via a smart card before entering a personal identification number into the in-car computer.
Overall, it has seen a 90% growth in membership in the past year and has now set aside £1.8 million towards a 50% expansion of their fleet by 2011.
“A large reason for our growth has come from demand from business,” explained Finlayson.
Meanwhile, Streetcar has a membership of around 75,000 of which 6,000 are corporate members. “However, our business membership is growing very fast indeed, with 20% of all new members signing up as business members,” added Brett Akker co-founder of Streetcar.
It boasts a fleet of 1,400 vehicles operating out of seven cities, including Cambridge, Oxford and London, with plans to expand their coverage to include Bristol, Glasgow and Edinburgh.
“Streetcar can help organizations optimise their transport usage by cutting the overheads of maintaining a fleet of pool cars and only paying as and when they need a vehicle,” explained Akker.
Surrey County Council did just that when its Travelchoice team linked up with Streetcar resulting in a cost reduction of 26% per mile driven by the local authority.
“It has helped us reduce transport costs and encourages our staff to walk to work or use public transport in the knowledge they have access to a car for business purposes,” explained Kay Hammond, Surrey County Council’s cabinet member for Community Safety. “This is helping us reduce our carbon footprint and ease traffic congestion.”
Paul Balmont, managing director of Commonwheels, added: “Businesses have had to change the way their staff travel to tackle climate change and congestion, while the liability of grey fleets is becoming an issue which is also motivating businesses to change behaviour.”
Operating out of the likes of Newcastle, Leeds and Portsmouth, Balmont says approximately 25% of Commonwheels’ 700 members come from the corporate sector.
“The main thing for us is still raising awareness amongst businesses in the locations we operate,” explained Balmont. “It’s hard to get through to the right person, particularly in bigger organisations, but when we have, enthusiasm and take-up are both high.”
Car clubs operate out of 46 locations across the UK and have a combined membership in excess of 110,000, according to the Carplus annual survey.
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