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It's been a busy month for Zipcar (Nasdaq: ZIP ) , and we haven't even gotten to next week's quarterly earnings report.
The country's leading car-sharing service kicked off the month with overseas expansion news. Zipcar completed the additional investment required to take majority control of Spain's Avancar.
Earlier this week Zipcar announced a partnership with the city of Boston to introduce car-sharing principles to the metropolitan city's own fleet of vehicles. FleetHub -- part of Zipcar's grander FastFleet vision -- is a win-win proposition. Zipcar outfits the city-owned cars with the necessary tracking equipment and provides the technology to track usage and allocate vehicles.
Auto underutilization is a problem that doesn't get enough play in the media. How long were you in your car today? Does it make sense that it's just sitting idle at home or your workplace? The popularity of peer-to-peer sharing services including RelayRides and Getaround has stemmed from this opportunity. Now just compound the problem at the public sector level where taxpayer money is at stake, and you can see where applying Zipcar's proven car-sharing principles and technology to a municipal fleet can be huge.
Boston isn't the first city to strike a deal with Zipcar. Washington, D.C., and Chicago are also on board with the company's fleet management technology. Cities save money by running more efficiently. Zipcar leverages its technology as a new revenue stream without having to invest in vehicles.
Zipcar can use the encouraging catalysts. The stock has been stuck in neutral here in the mid-teens for months.
Despite Zipcar's success -- and there that are now more than 650,000 members -- it seems as if it's Zipcar's rivals are hogging all of the headlines. It was Hertz (NYSE: HTZ ) that did away with annual membership fees for its smaller car-sharing operation, undercutting Zipcar. General Motors (NYSE: GM ) turned heads when it revealed that all OnStar-equipped cars can now be added seamlessly to RelayRides' inventory. Outside of a deal with Ford (NYSE: F ) back in September that placed hundreds of new Ford cars into Zipcar's campus car-sharing program (and a reasonable quarterly report in November), Zipcar's been running as quiet as a Prius.
Next week's report may help bring back attention to Zipcar. Analysts see breakeven results, but they're targeting healthy profitability in 2012 on a 21% top-line push.
Zipcar wants to crawl its way out of the teens as badly as your awkward 16-year-old nephew. At least Zipcar has a plan. It just needs to point in the right direction -- and drive.
These are interesting times, as the high costs of auto ownership and urbanization trends continue to play into the car-sharing movement. Zipcar is for real -- and it's driving right at you.
Shifting into gear
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