Sharing economy setbacks – is it car sharing’s turn?

Magdalena Räth 2013-10-11 4

car keys

Tamyca, Autonetzer, Nachbarschaftsauto – three years ago, private car sharing arrived in Germany. Since then, it’s attracted an actively-growing user base. Stuttgart-based startup Autonetzer, for example, claims to offer over 4,000 vehicles in Germany, which owners choose to share with friends or strangers. The company has been expanding rapidly – it grew by 65 per cent this year and more than doubled its user figures to 30,000.

Now, the future of Autonetzer and competitors may be in jeopardy – the German Federal Association for Car Rentals (in German, shortened to BAV) has filed a case against the private car sharing business model in Berlin’s regional court.

In a press release, the association stated: “We took a look at some of the cars offered on platforms for private car sharing. The results were catastrophic. There were problems with the vehicle body, a slashed tire, serious problems with brakes, damages to steering, operating problems with lighting and motor contamination threats to the environment. Even if this doesn’t apply to every vehicle, considering these serious shortcomings, every case is one too many.”

What does the BAV want to change?

The BAV wants vehicle owners that share their own car with others to meet the same requirements as commercial car rental services. The association says that private individuals should have to sign up their cars as “self-driven rental cars”. This means that the owners would have to present their cars yearly to the TÜV (Germany’s safety evaluation society) and also buy special insurance, which would cost “about €1,500 to €2,000 annually”, Autonetzer cofounder Sebastian Ballweg told Focus Online.

Autonetzer thinks BAV’s charges are unfounded, Focus Online went on to report. The vehicles deemed to be technically flawed in BAV’s report were presented to TÜV, which found that although some of the cars had slight defects, none would affect traffic safety. According to Autonetzer, it hasn’t had a single customer complaint since it began its service.

It’s the first of the car sharing companies involved to publish a highly indignant statement on the allegations: “Instead of seeing in car sharing the potential for future mobility and a cleaner environment, BAV feels like it and its profits are being threatened. By filing a lawsuit it is attempting to make life miserable for people renting out their own cars,” the statement read.

“By taking legal action against Autonetzer, BAV joins a list of lobbyist organisations that are driven by their own profit maximisation and a fear of innovative competition. They shy away from innovation and bring out the big guns to prevent it”, the company claimed. “How little must they be convinced by their own service and quality to see such a large threat in private car sharing?”

Car sharing is not the first sharing economy business model to meet resistance – Airbnb, the online platform for private property rentals, has faced opposition from hotels, holiday home owners and some city authorities. Berlin and multiple other European cities are currently considering some restrictions to the sharing model.

As for the charges against car sharing companies, the regional court of Berlin has not yet set a date for its decision. Autonetzer remains optimistic: “The founders of Autonetzer developed the idea together with legal experts and insurance companies… (We) are sure that the charges will be rejected as unfounded.”

Translated by Michelle Kuepper

Image credit: Flickr user Dave Dugdale / CC

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