When you’re embarking on a new business venture and you have a ton of questions and you want to connect with others doing the same thing, what do you do? These days, you start a group on social media. And then you start an event.
In the past couple of years, a new group of fleet owners has emerged to supply peer-to-peer (P2P) daily rental platforms such as Turo, Getaround, and Drivy (in the U.K.) as well as ride-hailing platforms such as HyreCar and Dryve. Owning from two to two hundred vehicles — or more in some cases — this group is buying, leasing, maintaining, renting, and selling cars, while managing the vehicle exchange portion of the customer experience.
This is new territory for all involved. These suppliers, or “hosts,” need information and answers on every aspect of their businesses. After robust conversations in their Facebook groups, 150 of them from across North America came together to turn digital profiles into human faces at an event in San Diego this past weekend.
The inaugural Car Share Conference was produced by Sarah and Matt Walker, owners of Luso, the largest host of luxury vehicles to the Turo platform.
Attendees came from all walks of business life: car sales, car rental, automotive repair, investment banking, record producing, and peanut farming (I’ll take an educated guess there is a peanut farmer in the bunch somewhere).
They’re learning fast. They’re understanding that minivans that rent well in Atlanta are poison in Tampa. They’re learning about utilization, revenue per unit, and total cost of ownership. They’re hunting for the best used car deals on Craigslist Auto Trader. They’re pinging their local dealerships for the cars they’re willing to discount heavily to increase sales numbers.
You know when you’re at a conference seminar and most in the audience are buried in their cell phones? That wasn’t the case in San Diego. The speakers had varying degrees of formal presentations, yet the seminars veered quickly into eager crowdsourced discussions.
There are vendors springing up to serve this market and a few of them presented at the event. These vendors are helping hosts manage postings across multiple platforms, track cars via GPS, analyze business metrics, process traffic violations, and manage the customer experience. Insurance brokers and carriers are crafting policies that cover the exposures.
These entrepreneurs are finding their sweet spots and pain points and adjusting on the fly. In the words of one host: “If you ask me what I do for a living right now, I wash cars.” Might there be a vendor that can meet his need, along with others that can address every aspect of their businesses?
In a testament to how fast this market is developing, Sarah Walker conducted a seminar on branding. While P2P platforms are the customer point of contact online, hosts are realizing that the customer experience extends to the vehicle exchange as well.
Turo hosts such as Luso are creating their own brand identities in order to reach specific market segments and create customer loyalty. Luso even has a tagline: “Life is too short to rent boring cars.”
Like most disruptive new business models, there are many gray areas, including issues surrounding liability, vehicle registration, LLC formation, airport rules, and insurance regulations that vary by state. It is imperative — this can’t be stressed more forcefully — to get these issues solved.
When you’re new in any business, you don’t know what you don’t know. In other words, you don’t necessarily recognize a different or better way of doing things, or even a way that doesn’t break any rules.
Therefore, it’s incumbent upon established business-to-business marketplaces to step in and expose this nascent industry to best practices, trade organizations, forums, networking, and vendors that can help them.
We can draw some parallels to previous disruptive business models in the automotive market, from Buy Here Pay Here and brokers in the leasing industry to the disruption caused by off-airport car rental companies in the ‘70s and ‘80s. We’re still processing the most recent epochal revolution in transportation brought on by Uber and Lyft.
None of these evolutions went smoothly, though the issues got solved, albeit painfully at times. Or perhaps they’re not fully solved, but at least there are industry checks and balances that evolve to deal with them.
They say P2P marketplaces, including the likes of Airbnb, Etsy, and WeWork, will continue to grow exponentially. Everybody wants to be the “Airbnb of something,” it seems. Will P2P automotive platforms have the same stickiness?
This market is growing too, though it may not look exactly the same in five years. Many P2P suppliers will be doing something else by then, but many will be doing it on a bigger scale.
We can choose to ignore these hosts and fight them or nurture them and help them succeed — the right way. I’ll choose the latter.