Daimler’s car-sharing subsidiary car2go, known for its fleet of tiny blue and white Smart ForTwos, is jazzing things up a bit with an announcement Monday that its members will soon have access to a fleet of Mercedes CLA sedans and GLA crossovers. At last, members won’t be limited to just the tiny two-seat city cars anymore.
Similar to easy rental access services like Zipcar, car2go says it carries the world’s largest flexible car-sharing service, with 2.2 million members, but until now, those drivers had to pack it in to the company’s small, economical Smart cars.
“From a demographic perspective, there are people that are out there that might not want to join a car-sharing service because, maybe they said, ‘Listen, I want to use car2go, but I only see that it’s a two-seater,’” Paul DeLong, car2go North America’s CEO, told Jalopnik in an interview.
It’s that demographic the company wanted to tap into, he added.
A pilot study in Canada found car2go users were avidly using a fleet of Mercedes B-Class mini-minivans, which helped spur the company’s decision.
“We’re not getting rid of the Smart, we’re just adding to the fleet with these Mercedes-Benz units,” he said. “People will still have the option to take Smart, but most importantly, we know that having a four-door vehicle, it does offer us additional use cases.”
As the only car-sharing service offering a Mercedes for a one-way ride, car2go says the fleet will first be rolled out in the coming weeks in Austin, Texas; Portland, Oregon; Seattle; Toronto; Vancouver, and Washington D.C. The number of cities will be expanded in 2017, DeLong said.
The five-door GLA crossovers, as well as the four-door CLAs in Toronto and Vancouver, will be equipped with Mercedes’ 4MATIC all-wheel drive system. The vehicles will be offered with standard tech amenities: blind spot assist; adaptive breaking, which can allow for autonomous breaking at up to 65 mph and alert a driver when a collision may be likely; and a rearview camera to provide a 180-degree view of the car, with an 8-inch dashboard screen to view while backing-up. They’re carrying full smartphone integration, Apple CarPlay, and a panoramic sunroof.
“The car, it’s not going to be a stripped down car,” DeLong told Jalopnik. “What we wanted them to do is experience an enjoyable ride in quality, so what we didn’t want to do is de-spec vehicles that rental car companies are known to do at certain points... we want people to feel ownership.”
The Benz fleet itself will, uh, definitely quite capable of outmaneuvering the Smart car fleet. Both vehicles come equipped with a 2.0L inline-4 cylinder turbo engine with 208 hp and 258 lb-ft of torque, and car2go says the fuel economy is up to 36 mpg.
DeLong said it costs $5 to sign up as a member, and rental prices for a Smart from 41 cents per minute up to $84.99 for a day. The Benz fleet is expected to carry a “slightly” higher price tag, the company says.
“If (members) do want to car-share, they need a vehicle that gives them a little bit more size,” he said. “And as families continue to grow, people are starting to look at the impact of cost of ownership. And for car sharing, this is where I’m saying it’s really starting to take off now as more... move back into the urban cores of cities.”