31_Robin Chase

Wheel and Deal

More mobility, less pollution. That’s the idea that drives Zipcar, a young company (in Boston, Washington, DC, and, now, New York) with big plans. It provides “wheels when you want them” to members who get all the perks of car ownership without all the hassles. Zipcar has more than 1,600 members who share more than 100 cars. The company pays for gas, insurance, and dedicated parking. Members pay by the hour or by the mile to drive a VW Jetta, Passat, or Beetle or a Honda Civic.


Robin Chase
CEO, Zipcar
Cambridge, Massachusetts


What specific issue are you trying to address?
Zipcar provides “wheels when you want them” to members who want all the benefits of car ownership with none of the hassles. Zipcar pays for gas, insurance, maintenance and a dedicated parking space. You just drive & pay for only what you need, by the hour by the mile. Research shows that every Zipcar on the road replaces 8 private vehicles. Hundreds of thousands of people in metro Boston & DC are within a 5 minute walk of a Zipcar today. So if you only need a car sometimes, Zipcar is the perfect way to get to appointments, meetings, errands or weekends away.

What business principle applied?
Zipcar believes that you really can do well by doing good. Zipcar has over 1500 members currently sharing 80 cars in 2 major metro areas. Zipcar will expand to NYC in first quarter of 2002. Most people who own cars do not really need a car full time, especially if they take public transportation to commute to work. Zipcar allows people to live car less without being car free. Zipcar is a membership-based organization and is very active in the communities it serves.

How did you put it into practice?
Zipcar’s members have been instrumental in the company’s success, helping spread the word in their companies and neighborhoods. Approximately 15-20 members use each car and typically the same group of people share a car so they have a strong incentive to treat the cars as if they were theirs. Zipcar’s vision is for a Zipcar on every block and for residents of major metro areas to have a subway pass, ATM, and Zipcard to get where they need to go easily.

How have you seen results?
Zipcar started in the summer of 2000 with 1 green VW Beetle in the Boston area. Today there are over 80 cars (Jettas, Passats, Golfs, Beetles & Civics) in the fleet and more than 1500 members using Zipcar regularly. Over 40% of the people who join Zipcar hear about us from friends and satisfied members so positive word of mouth is critical to Zipcar’s growth & success.