Hertz Connect Car-On-Demand Service Taking Aim At Zipcar

Connect by Hertz, the company's new car-sharing service, lets consumers snag an iPod-enabled, GPS-equipped car for a few hours at a price not increased by typical rental fees. Sound familiar?

The Hertz Connect service, just launched in New York, London and Paris, is strikingly similar to the service offered by Zipcar in those urban areas. Not only does the service offer a variety of cars rented by the day or hour for a small monthly and usage fee, they both use RFID passes to access the cars and neither services charges for gas. Additionally, the Hertz service offers two cars intimately associated with the Zipcar service: the Mini Cooper and the Toyota Prius. The other offering is a Toyota Camry.

Where Hertz differs from the Zipcar service is in the features. Not only are all cars equipped with iPod-ready sound systems, each has the "NeverLost" in-car nav system found on regular Hertz vehicles. Additionally, Hertz representatives can locate, unlock and engage rented vehicles wirelessly. Once a consumer pays the $50 monthly fee they can book a Prius for just $8.50 an hour or $59.50 a day, a Camry for $10.20 an hour/$71.40 a day or a Mini Cooper $11.90 an hour/$83.30 a day. Those are all prices lower than the non-monthly-fee-enabled Zipcar service.

In a pinch you could rent a Prius and power your house. Of course, we're still waiting for the Corvette ZHZ to find its place in the fleet.

Press release with full details below. We'll let you know what we think once we've had a chance to use the service, but for the moment, let's just say we're intrigued enough to want to give Hertz a call to try it out.

"Connect by Hertz" Launches Global Car Sharing Initiative

PARK RIDGE, NJ — (MARKET WIRE) — 12/19/2008 — Hertz, the world's largest general use car rental company, has launched Connect by Hertz car sharing club, the only global car share club offered by an international car rental company, with neighborhood parking in London, New York City and Paris. Dedicated to providing the flexibility of car sharing with a superior customer experience, further cities, as well as universities, for Connect by Hertz are planned for 2009 and beyond, and members will benefit from reciprocal membership at any Connect by Hertz city in the world in early 2009.

Connect by Hertz (www.connectbyhertz.com) offers consumers an economical, convenient and socially conscious alternative to car ownership. Upon enrolling, the self-service, pay-as-you-go system provides members with 24/7 access to a centrally located fleet of environmentally friendly vehicles strategically distributed over a neighborhood or city, transferring the fixed costs of car ownership to per-trip costs. Membership in Connect by Hertz includes insurance, fuel, roadside assistance, maintenance and cleaning. Connect by Hertz members enjoy a paperless program where they can reserve, drive and return vehicles all on their own, via the internet or phone.

Connect by Hertz car sharing allows urban dwellers to escape the city. Pictured is one of Connect by Hertz's feature cars, the Toyota Prius at Liberty State Park in New Jersey.

"Hertz's vision is to offer total mobility solutions and car sharing is a logical step for the Company. In line with Hertz's long term growth plans, Connect by Hertz supports Hertz's diversified business model by providing best-in-class transportation solutions across the spectrum of customer needs," commented Mark P. Frissora, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of The Hertz Corporation. "In addition to being environmentally friendly, Connect by Hertz cars can save members thousands of dollars a year in vehicle ownership costs and, by leveraging Hertz's established infrastructure, we're the first major car rental company to be able to offer members the first global car sharing program. With aggressive plans for expansion, Connect by Hertz has all the elements to become a successful and profitable part of Hertz."

Connect by Hertz cars are chosen based on a set of aggressive standards established in the categories of manufacturing/maintenance quality, environmental sustainability, safety and a blend of fun and functionality. Environmentally friendly, each car sharing vehicle eliminates up to 14 traditional passenger cars from the road*. The showcase car of the Connect by Hertz fleet in the US is the Toyota Prius. Known for its high fuel-efficiency and low greenhouse gas emissions, the reduced environmental impact of the Prius versus ordinary vehicles is most dramatic in stop-and-go city driving where the hybrid often operates on its electric motor. Additionally, all Connect by Hertz cars in the US are EPA SmartWay certified, indicating high quality environmental performance. The fuel emissions of the London and Paris cars are significantly less than the voluntary target of a maximum 140 g/km CO2 output set by the EU for the European Automobile Manufacturers Association.

"We're living in an increasingly mobile society with today's consumers demonstrating an intense willingness to look at alternate modes of transportation, whether it be for economical or environmental reasons," continued Frissora. "An easy-to-use, paperless program that harnesses the latest in technology, Connect by Hertz unites people to places while meeting the ever changing transportation needs of society."

Connect by Hertz adapts the latest in end-to-end telematics to further provide superior customer service. Members enroll online where, beginning in January, they will be able to retrieve their invoice and access their driving history. Upon making a reservation, each member receives an email confirmation as well as a text message indicating the reserved car's license plate and location. To unlock and engage the vehicle, members simply need to swipe their membership card, the Connect card, over the car's radio-frequency identification (RFID) reader.

In car, a hands-free audio kit connects members to a Member Care Center representative should they have questions, need assistance or need to extend their rental. The in-car technology also enables Connect by Hertz to 'communicate' with the vehicle enabling representatives to unlock, engage and locate vehicles. The technologically savvy cars are also equipped with iPod connectivity and, in the US, NeverLost® in-car navigation systems and EZ Pass transponders.

Upon enrolling in Connect by Hertz, members receive a smart chip enabled Connect card, which gives them keyless entry to any car in the fleet that the member reserves. Connect by Hertz members pay an hourly charge, must be 18 years or older, 19 in France, must be licensed with a good driving record for at least one year prior to joining. For more information, visit www.connectbyhertz.com or call Member Care Services at 877-654-4400.

[Source: Connect by Hertz]