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Car-sharing service Car2Go adding larger vehicles to Canadian lineup

A Mercedes Benz GLA under wraps at the media preview day at the Canadian International Auto Show in Toronto on Feb. 12, 2015.

Fred Lum/The Globe and Mail

Car-sharing service car2go is putting more models on the road as part of its belief that its service gets vehicles off the road.

Car2go NA LLC, which now offers mainly two-seaters produced by the Smart division of Daimler AG and a small number of Mercedes-Benz B-class subcompacts, will expand its lineup in Canada next month to include the Mercedes GLA crossover and CLA sedan.

The service will make the two new models available to members in Vancouver and Toronto in February and to members in Calgary and Montreal later this year, covering all four cities in Canada in which it operates.

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"At Mercedes-Benz we see the four key pillars for future mobility as connectivity, autonomous driving, car sharing and electrification," Dieter Zetsche, chief executive officer of Daimler AG and head of Mercedes-Benz said in a statement. Car2go North America is a subsidiary of Daimler North America LLC.

Every car2go vehicle that is shared by members is the equivalent of 11 vehicles that are off the streets and not adding to urban congestion, Paul DeLong, the company's president, said in an interview, quoting a study by University of California-Berkeley. The service has about 2,500 vehicles available to members in four Canadian cities now.

But members' needs and demographic positions have changed since the service was introduced in 2008 in Germany and 2012 in Canada.

"A lot of people back when we first started, they were single people, they didn't have families, they owned a car and they decided to get rid of a car because of car-sharing services like car2go," Mr. DeLong said. "As their life has gotten bigger and people have entered into their life, having a bigger vehicle matters."

The addition of larger vehicles that offer more seats and more cargo space should also make the service more attractive to those who originally rejected the idea because the Smart car offers only two seats and limited cargo space, he said.

Membership grew when car2go started pilot projects in Canada that offered the B-class, which as a subcompact offers four seats and more cargo area than a Smart, but is not as big as the GLA and CLA, he said.

"That's why we see that this is a perfect thing as far as being able to address those markets that we weren't able to address before," he said.

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Car2go's largest membership in Canada is in Vancouver, where about 119,000 of its 320,000 Canadian members live.

But Toronto has the highest utilization rate of any city in North America where car2go operates, with its vehicles typically moved 30 minutes after they're parked.

So car2go officials are lobbying Toronto City Council to grant the company a universal parking permit so the vehicles can be parked in residential areas overnight.

Such a move would not lead to residential streets full of car2go vehicles, but it would allow some members to find a vehicle not far from their doorways when they head out for work in the morning, Mr. DeLong said.

The company now has a dedicated team that moves the cars out of residential areas at night and puts them in other legal parking spots throughout the city.

Membership would increase and congestion would decrease if people knew they could pick up a car2go vehicle on their way home from work, run errands and not be forced to leave the vehicle in a parking lot five to 10 blocks from where they live, Mr. DeLong said.

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About the Author
Auto and Steel Industry Reporter

Greg Keenan has covered the automotive and steel industries for The Globe and Mail since 1995. He also writes about broader manufacturing trends. He is a graduate of the University of Toronto and of the University of Western Ontario School of Journalism. More

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