In an attempt to appeal to more mainstream consumers, Philadelphia's signature car share company PhillyCarShare has changed its name to Enterprise CarShare. Enterprise Holdings, the company that acquired PhillyCarShare in 2011, announced the name change early this month.
PhillyCarShare started as a homegrown nonprofit in 2002. With two leased cars and relatively little startup cash, the nonprofit grew into a successful and pioneering car share model. In 2011, Enterprise purchased PhillyCarShare for an undisclosed amount and converted it into a for profit business.
Enterprise has remained committed to some of PhillyCarShare’s founding values, including providing affordable car share options and demonstrating a commitment to both the environment and community, but the company has seen customers become more mainstream, said Kyle Sabie, Enterprise CarShare corporate rental manager. This name change is an attempt to adjust to today’s customers.
“The mainstream consumer is kind of less concerned with the original, mission driven values of car share, [and] more concerned with the product, the brand offering, the company providing the service,” Sabie said.
The name change is part of Enterprise’s efforts to expand the brand offering and further build Enterprise CarShare as a name that consumers can trust.
Changes, expanded network
For current customers the changes will be fairly insignificant. The vehicles will get a similar, perhaps smaller logo, but the vehicles themselves and parking stations will remain the same. The reservation process is similar, and the key fobs to access the vehicles are the same.
The biggest change for Philadelphia customers is that they will soon be able to use Enterprise CarShare vehicles in other participating cities, including Boston and New York.
Still committed to environment and community
“The key in understanding [this] is it’s not necessarily that the consumer doesn’t still want the environmental benefits and want the community involvement, it’s just… that isn’t the number one driver like it was maybe in the early days,” Sabie said.
Nonetheless, he said, Enterprise CarShare is still committed to some of PhillyCarShare’s founding principles. The company will continue to offer PhillyPatientRide, and through Enterprise Holdings Foundation it will continue to support organizations like the American Cancer Society, Mural Arts Program and Girls Rock Philly.
“One of our internal conflicts was we didn’t want folks to feel like by switching the name we were abandoning that,” Sabie said.
In Boston and New York, where Enterprise acquired Mint Cars in 2012, Sabie said the initial focus of that founding company was not as environmentally or socially driven as it was in Philadelphia. He said, however, that Philadelphia is being used as a blueprint to show that customers appreciate some of those aspects and that related programs can be successful.
When asked if Enterprise CarShare in those cities is as mission driven as Enterprise CarShare is in Philadelphia, Sabie said, “The answer today is not nearly as much. The answer ongoing is we definitely see a tremendous value, based on the history of … PhillyCarShare, [and think] that we need to do that more and more.”
What’s in a name?
Enterprise supported PhillyCarShare from the beginning. It was Enterprise that leased PhillyCarShare its first two cars “with no collateral other than our earnestness and our five-year business plan,” said Tanya Seaman, one of the original PhillyCarShare cofounders.
“We would have had a hard time starting if somebody didn't take a chance on us, and they did,” she said.
Seaman said she thinks it is exciting Enterprise saw car share as a viable enough interest that they decided to buy it and continue the service, but she said the name change might be fitting given the changes Enterprise CarShare has made.
For starters, the company is no longer a nonprofit, and it is no longer exclusively based in Philadelphia. Additionally, Enterprise has replaced all of the car share vehicles with newer models, and Seaman said she sees a shift to larger vehicles, which is “very different from what PhillyCarShare was trying to do."
According to an Enterprise CarShare representative, the company can not disclose the number of cars in its fleet for competitive reasons, but the company does have 30 hybrid and electric cars, Chevy Volt and Toyota Prius respectively.
“Given that the service is now provided by a large, multinational company rather than a few, dedicated individuals based here in Philly, I think the name change is appropriate,” Seaman said.
When Seaman and fellow cofounders started PhillyCarShare the goal was to get people out of their own cars, largely for environmental reasons.
“If the organization is run by different people and has a different set of core values, some of which may be the same, then the name change maybe better reflects or more honestly reflects the company,” she said.
“By calling it PhillyCarShare, people would think that it’s a homegrown company, which it really isn’t anymore.”
Christine covers transportation and writes about everything from pedestrian concerns to bicycle infrastructure, bridges, trail networks, public transit and more. Her favorite assignments send her bushwhacking through Philadelphia’s yet-to-be-cleared bike trails, catching a glimpse of SEPTA’s inner workings or pounding the pavement to find out what pedestrians really think. Christine also covers community news for Eyes on the Street, where her coverage ranges from food sovereignty to public art and urban greening. She first joined PlanPhilly in fall 2011 as an intern through a partnership with Temple University’s Philadelphia Neighborhoods website. During the internship her reporting on the Housing Authority’s surplus property auctions earned an award from the Society of Professional Journalists.