Turo VP Cedric Mathieu weighs in on Car2Go's departure from all Canadian markets

Mar 3 2020, 3:20 pm

This article was written for Daily Hive by Cedric Mathieu, Vice-President & Head of Canada at Turo


February 29 was SHARE NOW’s (Car2Go) last day operating in Vancouver and Montreal — the last remaining cities where it was active in Canada. The departure was an unsurprising yet huge blow to Canada’s carsharing industry, with 1,500 of their cars being pulled from Vancouver and over 500 from Montreal.

After leaving Toronto in 2018 and Calgary in October 2019, what remains is a handful of smaller carsharing services scattered across Canada that are unable to satisfy the mobility needs of the country.

With their exit, it’s time we start looking at new models to meet the demands of our cities and citizens.

SHARE NOW’s departure is just the latest story of carsharing companies using the same model to see their businesses suffer. There exists fundamental limitations in the way these fleet-based car share services operate that make it extremely difficult to grow and thrive.

They require significant upfront investments to acquire, maintain, and park their vehicles across a city. With insurance rates soaring and limited premium parking to spare in Canada’s urban centres, the economics make less and less sense.

Despite the fleet model’s decline, carsharing is still a key piece in the future of urban mobility, and municipalities are taking notice. Vancouver City Hall has expressed concern that SHARE NOW’s exit will increase private car ownership in the city and are looking at policy changes to make carsharing businesses easier to operate. These include decreasing parking prices for those cars at metered spaces. Calgary also introduced rules improving parking access for carsharing companies.

While it’s promising that cities are recognizing the important role that carsharing plays in the future of mobility, we need to look for alternate solutions beyond encouraging more fleet-based services onto our streets.

The first step is to look at the cars we already own. There are over 23 million cars in Canada, and they sit idle for 96 per cent of their life. One way to solve our carsharing conundrum is to put our cars to better use by giving citizens around the country access to that massive excess capacity.

This is the premise of peer-to-peer (P2P) carsharing, a car sharing model that makes more economical and environmental sense. The P2P model is already driving most of the growth of the car sharing sector today.

In a P2P model, car owners put their own vehicles onto a platform and allow other users to book them for periods of time. Think of Airbnb, but for cars. P2P car sharing platforms, therefore, allow the car owners to generate revenue while drivers have access to considerably more, and better, cars than they would through a fleet-based model.

The evolution of urban mobility will see increased usage of bikes and scooters for micro-mobility trips, public transportation and ride hailing for midrange intra-city travel, along with the overall decline of car ownership. Carsharing has a pivotal role to play for longer trips, short term vacations, and generally getting out of cities, but fleet services have largely proved unsustainable to meet this demand.

When exploring what will fill the void of SHARE NOW, it’s time that city officials and carsharing fans alike start looking for answers within — using the cars they already own to build the carsharing system of the future.