Digital Trend Alert


Virtual Car

The Virtual Car: the mindset is mobility

by Carol Ingley

President, Media Mogul Enterprises

Week of April 22, 2019 through Week of May 20, 2019


      Slogan from 1997Any Time: Any Place. Any Occasion. So begins a Toronto newspaper ad by Enterprise Rent-A-Car from 1997. That’s the year Enterprise trademarked the name virtual car.

      Enterprise has been thinking for a long time about this concept.

      It’s a few more years down the line now from 1997. With this added perspective, a better name than virtual car may be simply mobility.  Because that’s what  the consumer cares about – mobility – and that mobility better be convenient and at a fair price.

      Definition of a virtual car. The Enterprise slogan kind of covers a lot of territory (Any Time. Any Place. Any Occasion) for a virtual car but the market has refined it.

     Here are four aspects of the virtual car that have emerged in the marketplace: peer-to-peer ridesharing, self-driving cars/self-driving technology, car rental by the hour and traditional car rental companies transformed.

     Virtual Car

     Peer-to-peer ridesharing. Peer-to-peer is a computing term (meaning to allow shared access to files and peripherals without the need for a central server) that, in this instance, means ride-sharing using a computer interface. That is the  business model that Uber and Lyft have so effectively leveraged – it adds the virtual element with the computer interface. A quick “taxi” ride is just a few clicks and a few minutes away. These new ridesharing companies have completely disrupted the traditional taxi service.

     Self-driving cars. In select cities, self-driving cars are being tested. They are coming!  The major players may surprise you…or maybe not. According to ZDNet, the top 5 companies in the self-driving car arena are: GM, Waymo, Daimler-Bosch, Ford and Volkswagen Group. It sounds a lot like the traditional car industry. But, of course, it is the traditional car industry that has the most to lose if they aren’t on track with self-driving technology.

     Car rental by the hour. Zipcar, one of the leading companies in car rental by the hour, was acquired by Avis in 2012. One might think it wouldn’t be quite a match, but Avis was thinking ahead. It could see that its own core business was bound to change in that direction.

      Traditional car rental companies transformed. Where are the traditional rental car companies headed? Avis, for one, has changed its entire thinking to just one word: mobility.  It has formed a partnership with Waymo. Waymo, by the way,  is a division of Alphabet (parent company also to Google). It stands for Way Forward in Mobile. It is a self-driving technology company. Add the Waymo partnership with the acquisition of Zipcar and one can see the direction that Avis is going in. How you rent a car is likely to become much more streamlined with all of the rental companies. Exactly how this comes about is now evolving.

    There’s no question that the virtual car concept will change the car industry over the next ten years. It's disruption. All of these changes will affect other industries as well – the well-known domino effect. No matter how you slice and dice this, the virtual car is all about big change.


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