In response to a glowing article about car sharing published recently in the New York Times, Andrew Smith with the Dallas Morning News comes out swinging in the newspaper’s technology blog.
The justification for this “astonishingly long magazine article”, he says, “seems to be that car ‘sharing’ is an entirely new type of business that must be explained from the ground up. In reality, it’s just plain old car rental with a much more efficient system for pick up, drop off and billing.” He then takes a slightly more personal swipe against the car sharing community.
“There’s no real sharing here,” he writes. “That’s just a marketing term designed to make crunchy people think that abandoning car ownership for car ‘sharing’ will allow them to be even more morally condescending to the rest of us.”
An ensuing debate sparked by his post then brings about one more zinger from Smith:
“‘Sharing’ is the sort of faux-enlightened (though actually impractical) concept that lots of status seekers love to be associated with (even though they, like those grubby renters, actually want their money to maximize their own welfare).”
Smith’s argument (which is mostly focused on U.S.-based Zipcar) is certainly provocative, especially with long-time car sharers in British Columbia who belong to not-for-profit, membership-based organizations like the Cooperative Auto Network.
But he may have at least one sympathizing party north of the border: The B.C. provincial government.
In February of 2008, the province announced that a rental tax — the same kind that applies to traditional car rental company customers — would apply to car sharing members when they book a car for longer than eight hours.