Q&A

What Silicon Valley Sees in Enterprise Rent-A-Car

Enterprise, a 60-year-old company that owns and rents more cars in the U.S. than anyone else, is gaining newfound attention in Silicon Valley and Detroit, judging by conversations with tech executives lately. The reason is simple: Enterprise is one of the few companies that can manage large fleets of cars at scale. That’s a skill likely to be in demand as more companies launch ride-sharing services using self-driving cars.

Today, drivers for firms like Uber use their own cars but in the future, ride-sharing companies are likely to own the vehicles. And many might prefer to outsource the job of taking care of the cars. “Owning and operating a vehicle fleet is not for the faint of heart,” said Sean Behr, CEO of Stratim, which develops software for managing fleets of cars for companies such as General Motors.  

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I think those folks are very, very smart and I don’t have an opinion about whether it’s a good business. I think there’s a definite need and use for that. The ride-hailing business has been around for a long time. As for how [Uber is] doing it with independent contractors versus taxi cabs, and the labor question that they’re debating. ...If you go to airports, the taxis pay municipalities and airports money. So eventually that all gets sorted out. Eventually the airports will force that [on Uber]. All the airports are in need of infrastructure improvements; they need more money. The question is: Is Uber’s business sustainable from a profit point of view as it goes through that? At some point in time the playing field needs to be leveled between ride-hailing and taxis and livery in terms of care, custody and economics. Today, it’s an unlevel playing field.

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Sean Behr, Mary Vascellaro and 2 others commented on this article.
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