Car shar­ers hy­brid hope

Maker sees green on tax, writes NEIL McDON­ALD

Herald Sun - Motoring - - Front Page -

GREEN cars should be free of im­port duty to help spread the en­vi­ron­men­tal mes­sage. ‘‘That would be a great first step,’’ ac­cord­ing to Honda Aus­tralia se­nior di­rec­tor Lind­say Smal­ley.

‘‘In some states, like the ACT, they also have favourable rates on things like stamp duty.’’

Smal­ley is the lat­est car com­pany chief to sug­gest more could be done to en­cour­age buy­ers into new tech­nol­ogy, at state and fed­eral level.

Car park­ing in­cen­tives for hy­brids, seen as un­nec­es­sary by some con­sumers, is be­ing con­sid­ered by some mu­nic­i­pal coun­cils and shop­ping cen­tres.

Smal­ley joined lead­ing fash­ion de­signer Akira Iso­gawa last week to pro­mote World En­vi­ron­ment Day and hand over two Honda Civic hy­brid sedans to car-share com­pany Flexi­car in Mel­bourne’s CBD.

Smal­ley be­lieves there is

still some re­luc­tance by con­sumers to adopt hy­brid cars but hav­ing Flexi­car ‘‘will send a pos­i­tive mes­sage’’.

‘‘Peo­ple will be able to try out the car and if they like the driv­ing ex­pe­ri­ence it will help spread the word,’’ he says.

Flexi­car founder and chief ex­ec­u­tive Monique Con­heady ex­pects the hy­brid Hon­das to be pop­u­lar among the com­pany’s 2000 mem­bers in Mel­bourne and Syd­ney.

‘‘We’ve got the cars for a 12-month trial and then def­i­nitely we’ll put more on,’’ she says.

‘‘Our cus­tomers are ask­ing for hy­brids.’’

The Honda hy­brid will cost the same to rent as Flexi­car’s Jazz mod­els, from be­tween $9 and $13 an hour or $69 to $89 a day, in­clud­ing petrol and in­sur­ance.

‘‘It was im­por­tant to send a mes­sage to con­sumers that they did not need to pay more for fuel-sav­ing hy­brids,’’ Con­heady says.

One car will be avail­able at Flagstaff Gar­dens and the other in Surry Hills, Syd­ney.

Con­heady says the car share scheme is grow­ing rapidly in Europe and she sees huge po­ten­tial here.

‘‘We’re see­ing a lot of re­fer­rals but I be­lieve there is much more op­por­tu­nity to mar­ket the con­cept,’’ she says.

The com­pany op­er­ates 70 cars, mostly Honda Jazzes, in key in­ner city ar­eas in Mel­bourne and Syd­ney.

Cars can be booked for an hour or up to three days.

Flexi­car started four years ago with three cars and a hand­ful of mem­bers. The scheme fo­cuses on high-den­sity in­ner ur­ban ar­eas with good pub­lic trans­port close to dropoff and pick-up points.

‘‘We’re see­ing a lot of sin­gle peo­ple be­come mem­bers, par­tic­u­larly those in the in­ner city ar­eas, who don’t want to spend money on own­ing a car,’’ she says.

‘‘Also, many fam­i­lies use us as the ‘sec­ond’ car com­pany.

‘‘They may al­ready have a fam­ily car but oc­ca­sion­ally need a sec­ond one for short trips.’’

In the US and Europe car share schemes are be­com­ing more wide­spread with 900 cities par­tic­i­pat­ing.

Zip­car has more than 80,000 mem­bers in the UK and US and its busi­ness is grow­ing daily.

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