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RelayRides Takes A Page From Airbnb, Rebrands As Turo

Peer-to-peer car renting company RelayRides wants you to pick its cars for the driving experience.

Sure, you might use Airbnb because it’s the cheapest option in the city where you’re traveling. But Airbnb has taken great efforts to brand itself as an option for finding unique travel options (1,400 castles and counting!) and connecting with locals.

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RelayRides, a car-renting platform for individual car owners, is now taking a page from the same marketing plan. On Tuesday, the company announced that, along with $47 million in series C funding, it is changing the company’s name to Turo. A made-up word, the name is intended to spark associations with works like “tourism,” “turbo,” and “adventure.”

Turo will work to differentiate itself from the standard car rental experience, much as Airbnb has differentiated itself from hotels. “Instead of renting the generic fleet vehicle,” CEO Andre Haddad told Fast Company, “[our customers] are interested in renting some of the unique cars we have in the marketplace. They are also interested in connecting with the owner of the vehicle and establishing a different kind of rapport with the city that they’re visiting.”

Andrew Mok, the company’s VP of marketing and analytics, continued the vision: “When you’re sharing your car on Turo,” he says, “you’re sharing yourself, you’re sharing the story of your car, you’re allowing someone else to create a new story with your car.”

When RelayRides launched five years ago, it had no focus on tourism. The company started targeting travelers when it piloted the option to search by airport in 2013, and launched a delivery option in 2014 (the owner of the car drives it to a pick-up point).

Now, the startup has at least one car available in over 2,500 cities and about 300 airports. “Turo” is probably a better name than “RelayRides” to find out whether the desire for unique travel experiences extends to car rentals (plus it’s shorter, easier to say, and translates better internationally). But if the lure of adventure doesn’t hook you, the price tag might: The company estimates that its rentals are on average 35% cheaper than a rental car company’s vehicles.

About the author

Sarah Kessler is a senior writer at Fast Company, where she writes about the on-demand/gig/sharing "economies" and the future of work.

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