AOL co-founder Steve Case said Wednesday his investment firm has bought a majority share in Flexcar, the Associated Press reports.
Case said he hopes to increase Flexcar's customer base to 1 million and its fleet to 20,000 vehicles in five years. The Seattle-based company currently operates 450 cars in six cities -- Seattle, Los Angeles, San Diego, Chicago, Washington and Portland, Ore.
Case said his investment would help Flexcar quickly add more vehicles to existing locations and expand into new markets such as New York, Boston, Miami, Philadelphia, San Francisco and Austin, Texas, by the end of 2006.
The amount of the investment was not disclosed.
Lee Iacocca, former chairman and chief executive of Chrysler Corp., will serve as a senior adviser to the company and take a seat on its board of directors, the AP story said.
A personal Flexcar membership costs $40 a year. Consumers can reserve a vehicle, located in a neighborhood parking lot, for $7 to $10 per hour and $35 to $90 per day. Consumers pay for the hours they use the vehicles and the rate is all-inclusive, covering gasoline and insurance.
Two other carshare companies compete nationally with Flexcar:
A service called Viacar opened in the Detroit area in the spring. Members pay $200 to sign up. Members buy prepaid cards from vending machines and call Viacar or log online to make a reservation using the code printed on each card. Cards cost $10 for 1 hour, $25 for 3 hours or $65 for all day. Rates are the same for all cars.
Zipcar, the largest car-sharing company in the country with 40,000 members nationally, will begin operating in San Francisco on Sept. 1 as the first step in its planned West Coast expansion, the San Francisco Chronicle reports. The company plans to have 150 cars available in San Francisco by the end of the year.
Zipcar offers 20 different makes and models including the Toyota Prius hybrid, Mini Cooper, Volkswagen Jetta, Mazda 3, BMW 325i, Scion xB, Ford Escape and Toyota Tacoma pickup.