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Carsharing Car2go: This is how the successful model works

Werner Popp
Carsharing Car2go
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D he desolate flat roof building in the sixties look does not give any indication that that there is a parking garage in the back yard of the property between Görlitzer Bahnhof and Schlesisches Tor. And it is even less likely that the Heinzelmännchen of Berlin reside on the top floor: this is where the operations center of the Car2go service team is located. White and blue Smarts stand close together and have something to replace or repair. With currently 55,000 Car2go users in Berlin and over 22,000 rental transactions per week, there is a lot that needs to be repaired - changing windshield wipers, replacing headlights or brake lights, charging the battery, checking tire pressure or refilling washing water.

'Overall, customers are very careful with the vehicles,' says Yener Retzlaff, head of the service team. Damage such as scratches and dents do occur, but are in the 'green area' (Retzlaff), and accidents are rare. The Car2go service workshop in the heart of Kreuzberg has space for 25 Smart, its own spare parts store and even a wash box so that the cars get back on the road in tip-top shape. The simple evaluation system for assessing cleanliness inside and outside has proven itself in everyday carsharing: If you get feedback that the condition leaves something to be desired when renting, the fleet management automatically sends a cleaning order to Yener Retzlaff's team. 'Even if a car constantly receives positive reviews, it is cleaned inside and outside every 14 days at the latest,' says Retzlaff.

Car2go takes away the fear of an empty tank

Being 30 - The team is mixed: technicians, mechatronics technicians, telematics specialists and service staff who are responsible for car maintenance. But they are also able to carry out minor repairs such as changing a fuse at the respective location. The Car2go service employees at all locations also take care of refueling. If the fuel tank is close to reserve, this is automatically converted into a refueling order. This also works with alternative drives, for example when the charge level of the E-Smart used in Stuttgart has fallen below a certain percentage. How is that possible? The take-away cars have a control unit on board that reads this data from the CAN bus and forwards it via the SIM card. At the end of each rental, the fuel level and charge level areOn-board battery queried.

The service crew works in two shifts from 8 a.m. to 10 p.m., emergency numbers have been set up for the night and the weekend. Martina Schutz has been with us for a year. Her first aid kit is in the overhead compartment of the Smart that she starts with at the head office. 'Everything is there that you need on the order tours,' says the 41-year-old. This refers to light bulbs, fuses, screwdrivers, key rings, plastic care products, cleaning cloths and so on. 'In winter there are still a lot of ice scrapers, because they regularly disappear from cars,' says Schutz. The orders are assigned to her - like all colleagues - by fleet management on the service smartphone.

If she has been on the road for too long, or it is too far to the next location, she can activate the order and other colleague takes over. 'Each of us does around eight to ten missions a day,' reports the Berliner. Half an hour to an hour are required per car. With the smart that has been made fit, the helpers then navigate to the location of the next item on the order list. 'Every day, each employee amounts to around 100 kilometers in city traffic,' says Schutz.
Your colleague Mikail Camöz has been a service employee since the Car2go start in Berlin in April last year. The 26-year-old is the team's telematics specialist and is therefore preferably sent to cars where users have reported problems with the system. He is always amazed and amused by what users forget in their cars. 'Lost property in the vehicle is more common than incorrect parking,' he reports. Laptops, shopping bags, wallets, smartphones, keys, jewelry - the list could go on and on.

Even a toddler in a child seat stayed in the car in Berlin - that was an interesting case for the Car2go call center, and It came like this: The mother had wanted to do something quickly. And she had not interrupted the smart rental, as possible in such cases, but - probably to save costs - ended it. Bad surprise when she returned: The car was in service mode and could not be opened because the tank was on reserve. An emergency call to the Car2go call center immediately mobilized a technician who relieved mother and child from the predicament.

Cooperation with authorities is good

The service provider for Car2go is the Bosch Communication Center in Charlottenburger Schillerstraße. What few people know: Bosch not only builds car parts and refrigerators, but also has the Sicherheitssysteme GmbH division based in Magdeburg, which in turn operates the Berlin Communication Center with 220 employees. The Car2go team has 35 people who look after the entire German-speaking area in Europe and Milan. Why a city in Italy of all places? 'It is in BerlinNo problem finding Italian native speakers as employees, 'says René Müller, who is responsible for the customer Car2go at Bosch. Users looking for help don't need to overcome language barriers. Because Dutch people are in short supply in Berlin, the car sharing locations in Amsterdam, Birmingham and London are being used by the Bosch Communication Center branch in Nijmegen supplied.

The Berlin call center works around the clock. Around 23,000 calls are received there every month. Most questions are asked about the operation of the Smart, although a short, but easy-to-understand instructions can be found in every car. 'The classic is that users have problems opening the tailgate because the rear window has to be opened first,' says René Müller. The second most common reason customers call is to report a claim or Inquiries about damage. However, the fleet's susceptibility to failure is within expectations.

Occasionally the police also call a law enforcement officer in Berlin was at risk of theft because he had discovered the ignition key in one of the Smarts - the good man had probably never dealt with how the take-away car works. And a policeman from Hamburg, employed by a Car2go that was blocking a construction site exit, wanted to know: 'Can you carry it away?' The pragmatic answer: 'yes' - waiting for the tow truck would have taken too long. Problems that cannot be solved ad hoc by the call center go to the central fleet management, which is also located in Berlin. The current five-man team takes care of fleet management, order placement and much more, so that everything runs like clockwork.

The successful Car2go model

In addition to Berlin, there are six other flexible car sharing from the Car2go brand German cities: In Ulm, Hamburg, Düsseldorf, Cologne, Stuttgart and Munich as well as in the federal capital there is a fleet of 3,550 vehicles. In the state capital of Baden-Württemberg, only Smart with electric drives have been in use since November last year. After just eight months, 20,000 users were registered there, a million kilometers covered in the city and the fleet increased for the second time to 450 vehicles. In the Austrian metropolis of Vienna, Car2go is starting with 600 Smart. Flexible car sharing is now represented in 22 European and North American cities with 8,500 vehicles - including more than 1,100 with electric drives - and has more than 400,000 customers worldwide who have completed ten million rental transactions.

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