Mint Cars, a Car-Sharing Company, Acquires Somerville-Based iCar's Assets
Based in New York, Mint Cars will try what iCars was unable to do: Grab a slice of Zipcar's car-sharing pie in Boston.
Mint Cars On-Demand, a New York-based car-sharing company, announced recently it was acquiring assets from the Somerville-based iCar, which is discontinuing its service, according to the announcement.
Somerville Patch wrote about iCar earlier this year.
Mint Cars bills itself as "a more community-focused, less expensive alternative to both private car ownership and existing car sharing options," the announcement states.
One can only assume that's a reference to Zipcar, the popular car-sharing company based in Cambridge.
After launching in New York in 2008, Mint Cars came to Boston earlier in 2011.
A look at Mint's website indicates the car-sharing company works almost exactly like Zipcar. Members reserve cars online by the hour or day. They use a special card to unlock the car they've reserved, and the keys are in the car. There's a special credit card used to pay for gas when the tank gets low. You need to fill up when the tank gets down to a quarer full; there's no smoking, and you need to report damage. This is all familiar to Zipcar users.
One difference is that Mint vehicles have on-board devices that allow members to extend their reservations right on the spot. News reports from New York indicate Mint Cars has tried to draw customers with lower costs and membership fees.
A look at Mint Cars' fleet on its website shows the company mostly hires out the standard collection of economical Japanese cars—think Nissan Sentras—although it does have Mercedes C300s and Smart Cars. At this point, however, those "cool" cars seem to be located in New York; it looks like there's one Mercedes and no Smart Cars available in the Boston area, based on a map on the company's website. According to the map, there are 11 pick-up locations for Mint Cars in the Boston area, which, before the iCar deal, included Boston, Cambridge and Brookline.
Of course, Zipcar has Audis, Minis and VW Golfs, among other vehicles. It all depends on what you think is cool.
In acquiring iCar's assets, Mint Cars will make modest gains in taking on Zipcar here in the Boston area. As Somerville Patch reported earler in 2011, industry analysts suggest there's room for competition in the car-sharing business.