Start-up Locomute, being launched on 1 June, is looking to turn the local car rental industry on its head by offering short-term use of vehicles for as little as an hour at a time.
Underpinned by technology, Locomute is billed by its founders as Africa’s first car-sharing company.
Its business model is based on international car rental companies like Zipcar, which has over 900 000 users in the US, UK, Canada, Spain, Austria and France.
Zipcar’s Annual Millennial Survey found that urban dwellers between the ages of 18 and 34 are more open to such alternative forms of transport.
Locomute was founded by Tumi Marope, a former aircraft maintenance engineer at South African Airways, and Ntando Kubheka, a fund manager at one of the big four banks.
Marope, who is CEO, says the business started as an MBA project at Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University in Port Elizabeth, where students were tasked with coming up with an innovative and disruptive business idea.
A visit to a forum in Germany last year, attended by car manufacturers, sparked the idea, Marope says. A keynote speaker had explained how car-sharing schemes were a threat to manufacturers.
The students investigated the idea further and found there were no car-sharing schemes in South Africa — or anywhere on the continent for that matter.
But they had difficulty in raising capital and invested their own money instead.
“We decided to start the business on a smaller scale and build it from the grassroots.”
Today, the business has five shareholders.
Here’s how Locomute will work at launch. Users register online and apply to use the service. They download an app, which can be used to check where vehicles are, making a booking and even to unlock the vehicle (members will have a smartcard that can do the same).
The Android app will be available next week, while an iOS version should be available in time for the launch.
Costs include a R499 initiation fee and a monthly fee of R45. There’s also a variable hourly and per-kilometre rate. Once-off users pay a R119 fee in addition to a variable hourly and distance rate.
Members can use any of the company’s cars parked at specific locations or business zones for either one-way or two-way trips.
At launch, Locomute will be available only in selected areas in Gauteng, including Centurion, Menlyn and Hatfield in Pretoria; Morningside and Fourways in Johannesburg; and Waterfall in Midrand. Cape Town and Durban are next on the cards.
The cars are available 24 hours a day. Twenty-six vehicles will be available at launch.
When someone has finished using a car, they simply park it at their nearest Locomute parking facility or designated business zone at airports, transport stations and shopping malls. Leaving a vehicle outside a designated area will attract an extra fee.
All trips are inclusive of fuel and insurance. And Locomute will even pick up e-toll charges.
The company is currently making use of the Fiat 500L, which includes features such as air conditioner, a five-inch touchscreen radio with Bluetooth, USB and voice control, rain-sensing windscreen wipers, cruise control and front electric windows.
Marope says the business is about offering customers convenience. He encourages Gautrain users in particular to use their service. “All Gautrain stations form part of the business zones and we will have a number of parking spots reserved for our cars.” — © 2015 NewsCentral Media