Zipcar's college strategy taps target market

Millennials are strong adopters of car-sharing, making them the most lucrative and influential market segment for Zipcar.

By Trefis Mar 23, 2012 1:12PM
Image: Student in classroom (© StockByte/PictureQuest)Zipcar's (ZIP) American expansion in 2011 focused mainly on entering university and college campuses. The company acknowledges that 18- to 34-year olds make up its most important market. This age group not only holds the key to Zipcar's popularity, but to the overall expansion of the car-sharing market. 

From tying up with Ford (F) to launching a Facebook app to investing in the college peer-to-peer (P2P) car-sharing Wheelz, Zipcar is pulling out all the stops to become the favorite among young drivers.

Zipcar is a membership-based, car-sharing company that serves over 673,000 members with a fleet of over 9,000 vehicles in North America and Europe. The membership grew by 25% in 2011, leading to 30% higher revenues from the previous year, and it posted its first two profitable quarters over the second half of 2011. 

Aside from competing with traditional rental companies and car-sharing services like Connect by Hertz, Enterprise's WeCar, UHaul's UCarShare and City Car Share, it also faces competition from new low-cost, P2P car-sharing services like RelayRides and GetAround.

Zipcar Stock Break-Up

Zipcar's focus on young drivers, an underserved market and future patrons

The "millennials" are Zipcar's most popular patrons. The company recently conducted a study that revealed that 18- to 34-year olds (who form a quarter of the U.S. population) are the most important market for the car-sharing company and already constitute more than half of Zipcar's membership base. The study examined the young generation's attitudes toward personal transportation and car ownership and found them to be increasingly adoptive of collaborative consumption. The younger generation today increasingly values access to cars over personal ownership. Millennials are strong adopters of car-sharing, making them the most lucrative and influential market segment for Zipcar.

Tying up with Ford, Zipcar spread to 40 new college campuses in 2011  

Last year Zipcar expanded its University Program, adding services in 40 new college campuses, reaching a total 250 institutions nationwide. In late August, Zipcar also tied up with Ford in a two-year partnership, making it the largest automotive source for its University Program.

College and university campuses serve as significant markets for Zipcar as students are more likely to look for alternatives to personal car ownership than any other demographic group. Renting cars to students also constitutes a long-term marketing strategy to build the network out. Students using Zipcars while in college are more likely to subscribe to Zipcar car-sharing against car ownership when they enter jobs.

Tapping P2P car-sharing on campuses

Zipcar also recently invested in the first peer-to-peer (P2P) car-sharing company targeting college campus communities, Wheelz, acknowledging the potential of P2P sharing in contributing to the expansion of the overall car-sharing market. Zipcar has vast experience in operating car-sharing programs on college campuses across the U.S., and together with Wheelz, it can tap the growing popularity of P2P car-sharing on campuses.

"Reserve a Zipcar" Facebook app

Last year, Zipcar also launched a Facebook application, "Reserve a Zipcar," allowing its members to book Zipcars, modify or cancel reservations directly through Facebook. It is estimated that 88% of Zipcar users are also Facebook users who spend roughly 15 hours per day on the social network. A large proportion of them are also young college students. The newly launched Facebook app has thus made car-sharing more accessible to the college communities.

We currently estimate Zipcar membership in North America to reach 1.9 million by the end of the Trefis forecast period. However, there could be a 20% downside to the Trefis price estimate if the market growth is slower and Zipcar membership in North America manages to reach just 1.5 million by the end our forecast period. Drag the trend-line to understand the impact of membership growth trends on Zipcar's stock price.

Zipcar Average Number of Members per Year for Zipcar North America

We have a $22 Trefis price estimate for Zipcar, which implies a premium of 50% to the current market price.

Tags: FZIP
Mar 24, 2012 11:15AM
Millenials are the reason Google is moving forward with autonomous cars. Millenials would rather be in front of a phone/tablet/laptop screen than driving and Google knows this and wants the ad revenue generated from it.
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