Car-Share Operators Plan Ad Blitz
By The Business Times | 27 June 2003

SINGAPORE'S four car-share operators will launch a joint advertising campaign to promote car-sharing. The operators - NTUC Income Car Co-op, CitySpeed, Honda Diracc and WhizzCar - aim to create awareness of car-sharing through newspaper ads and TV and radio commercials.
'The purpose of car-sharing is to provide the convenience of and access to a car 24 hours a day without the hassle and cost of owning one.' said Lewis Chen, general manager of NTUC Income Car Co-op and the man behind the campaign.
NTUC tried promoting the concept of car-sharing on its own earlier this year but soon realised that 'one party can't make too much noise', he said.
The initial budget for the joint campaign is about $50,000, to be shared equally among the four parties. Mr Chen said whether more money will be pumped in later depends on the results. The operators are joining hands for the promotion even though they are competitors.
'This is a growing market, so it's possible for each of us to go in and establish different areas.' Mr Chen said. 'And I don't think anyone can corner it because of the capital investment required.'
NTUC has 110 vehicles in 31 locations, including two condominiums. It uses cars such as the Toyota Corolla and Vios and Mitsubishi Lancer, as well as panel vans such as the Renault Kangoo and Peugeot Panther.
Honda Diracc uses 30 Civic cars with petrol-electric hybrid engines. The vehicles are based at five 'ports' in the central business district. It is the only service that allows customers to return a vehicle to a location other than the one it was taken from.
Different niches
Gan Kok Seng, director of Honda ICVS Singapore, which runs Honda Diracc, said: 'Each of the existing services is actually serving different travel needs. We are serving the business community in the CBD, so we complement the rest of the operators. Our focus is on flexibility. The port network gives members who travel to, from and around the ports greater access and convenience.'
CitySpeed, which is owned by ComfortDelGro's car rental unit, is taking part in the campaign because the company sees car-sharing as an extension of its existing business. According to its systems manager Nicholas Yiow: 'A joint endorsement will create awareness of car-sharing among the public and complement our core car rental business. After all, car-sharing is like car-rental, but on an hourly basis. By promoting car-sharing, we attract more users.'
CitySpeed has 60 cars in 29 locations. It uses compacts such as the Hyundai Accent, large saloons such as the Mitsubishi Galant and mid-sized MPVs such as the Toyota Picnic. Like CitySpeed, the fourth and smallest operator, WhizzCar, was formed at the start of this year. But unlike CitySpeed, WhizzCar is virtually a franchise of NTUC Income Car Co-op. WhizzCar uses the same access and management technology, as well as NTUC's 24-hour call centre for reservations. It has cars in 10 locations.
NTUC's move to lend a helping hand to start-ups and head the promotion efforts stems from its desire to encourage the use of public transport as much as possible while catering for other travel options. 'If you own a car, the chances of you taking public transport are close to zero because a car is expensive and you will want to maximise its use.' said Mr Chen. So the cooperative, which is not profit-motivated, feels it has a social responsibility to create awareness of car-sharing.
'Initially, people thought that car-sharing meant car-pooling. They thought a car owner has to share his car with other people.' In assuming the leading role of promoting the car-sharing concept, NTUC is also taking steps to ensure the industry starts off on a good footing. It is preparing a databank of all the operators' members and their records and putting it on a website for the four companies to share - like a credit bureau.
This will help companies check whether a person has a bad driving record or a history on non-payment.'For car-sharing, we need members to adhere to certain rules,' Mr Chen said. 'For example, they have to keep the car clean and not bring in pets.'
The number of NTUC car-share members who violate this and other rules is small, less than one per cent, he said. 'But we need to administer the scheme closely because every time there is an accident, the car is down for a few days and this means other members can't use the car. So we have to make sure the cars are in good hands.'