Enterprise has an idea that may help flagging electric car sales.
The New York Times reports that the rental car company purchased 350 Nissan Leafs in 2010, but found their customers weren’t very interested in them. Customers were afflicted with “range anxiety”, or the fear that the car will run out of juice far from a charging station. Since the public isn’t used to electric cars yet, we have nothing to base the electric car experience on, and therefore aren’t familiar with the routine of charging a car as opposed to refilling a typical car with gas. Unfamiliarity can lead to anxiety, so why not introduce the concept gradually?
Enterprise saw a parallel between consumer’s reaction to electric rental cars and the challenge Enterprise faced with the hybrids they introduced to renters in 2003. Lee Broughton, head of corporate sustainability for Enterprise Holdings, the parent of Enterprise, National and Alamo said of the hybrid fleet, “Over time it was able to educate its consumers, and now, when gas is over $3 a gallon, Enterprise cannot keep hybrids on its lots even though they cost more to rent.”
Rental car companies are in a unique position to be able to introduce these new more efficient vehicles to the public slowly. If you’re interested in an electric or hybrid car, but you are afraid of how far it will go on a charge, renting an electric car for an afternoon of errands might be a nice, safe introduction.
Enterprise thinks so too,
>So after some research, the company has decided to put its cars in just 50 locations in 20 markets where the “urban eco-curious” are more prevalent. Mr. Broughton describes this person as an early adopter who takes pride in embracing energy efficiency and understanding the benefits of technology. “They are really into smart decisions from a technology and efficiency perspective,” he said.
>To attract these customers to the new cars, Enterprise will roll out a new campaign in the fall called “Driving Futures” in urban areas including New York, Nashville, Phoenix and Austin, Tex. The campaign is aimed partly at customers who may want the car for a few hours rather than for a weekend getaway.
In addition, Enterprise has set up a 24/7 hot line for renters that can answer any questions, and ease any anxieties, they may have regarding their electric rental car.
>If the company can tap into this new demographic, he said, these customers may find that they enjoy driving electric vehicles. “After all, these cars are practically one giant gadget,” he said.
One giant gadget sounds pretty fun! So if you find yourself in New York, Nashville, Phoenix or Austin, Tex, this fall looking to rent a car for the day, check back in with Enterprise and Driving Futures!
See also: Our post about Current Electric Car Ranges and where they can take you!
Car Rentals for the ‘Eco-Curious’ [NYTimes]