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Is Fiat Chrysler missing a shared opportunity?

by Bill Cawthon on

Car-sharing is one of the hot topics today. In major cities and on college campuses, people can get a car, drive where they need to go and, when they’re done, lock it an walk away.

Businesses like Car2Go and Enterprise Car Share are already up, operating and expanding but Fiat Chrysler doesn’t seem to be a marquee player, despite the unique opportunities these programs offer.

Fiat2Share-Web

Car2Go is owned by Daimler AG, parent company of Mercedes-Benz and Smart. It has fleets of Smart ForTwo coupes in 29 cities around the world and is expanding in New York City. Unlike competing services, Car2Go allows the user to pick up a car in one location and drop it off in another.

Nissan just signed a deal with Enterprise Car Share to supply fleets of Nissan-brand vehicles to 90 college and university campuses in the U.S. In return, it becomes the exclusive supplier to Enterprise’s college program. To make the deal even sweeter for students, there is a special, discounted rate of $5.00/hour.

Fiat Chrysler does participate in car-sharing both in the U.S. and Europe, but it’s generally only one of several brands offered – just another fleet sale.

Fiat Chrysler has two vehicles that could be effective as the lead players in a car-sharing operation: the Fiat 500 and the Dodge Dart, both of which could use some help bringing up their sales numbers.

The Fiat 500 is only slightly larger than the Smart ForTwo and is perfect for large urban areas. The larger Dart would be for colleges and universities where students could split the cost up to four ways and and still have a decent ride.

With more than 2,300 public and private colleges and universities, there’s plenty of opportunity to pick good locations.

Not only could FCA have a new revenue center, this would create opportunities for sales down the line. Think of each new rental as a test drive.

While Car2Go isn’t yet profitable across its entire European and American operation, it is profitable in some U.S. cities. Paul DeLong, CEO of Car2Go North America, told the Washington Post that balancing supply and demand is the key.

As to the future of the operation, DeLong told the Post’s Matt McFarland, “…(W)e wouldn’t be making these investments if they weren’t good.”

The rate at which Americans buy new vehicles has been declining for years and car-sharing offers a hedge to the migration from the suburbs back to cities. It would be a shame to see Fiat Chrysler pass on this opportunity.

Bill Cawthon grew up in the auto industry in the 1950s. His Dad worked for Chrysler and Bill spent a number of Saturdays down on the plant floor at Dodge Main in Hamtramck. Bill is also the U.S. market correspondent for just-auto.com, a British auto industry publication, and a member of the Texas Auto Writers Association, which has named the Jeep Grand Cherokee the “SUV of Texas” several times and named the Ram 1500 as the “Truck of Texas” two years running.

Bill has owned five Plymouths (including the only 1962 “Texan”), one Dodge and one Chrysler and is still trying to figure out how to justify a Wrangler. He also has owned at least one of every 1:87 scale model of a Chrysler product. You can reach him directly at (206) 888-7324 or by using the form.


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