Ford And Zipcar Partner On Car-Sharing Program For Universities

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Ford Motor Company and the leading car-sharing network Zipcar have just announced a partnership that establishes Ford as Zipcar’s largest auto source for Zipcar’s University program. The new, two-year alliance will reach students at over 250 university campuses here in the U.S.

Ford will start shipping its vehicles, primarily the 2012 Ford Focus and Ford Escape, to colleges starting this week.

Zipcar says that it will add 650 Ford vehicles this academic year and up to 1,000 during the life of the agreement. In addition, thanks to Ford, Zipcar will begin offering $10 off its $35 annual membership fee for the first 100,000 new University program members who sign up for Zipcar. It will also offer $1 off the hourly rate for the first 1 million hours of use on any of the Ford cars on select campuses, bringing it down to $7.50 per hour.

While the Ford Escape (an SUV), isn’t the most fuel-efficient car in Zipcar’s lineup, the Ford Focus, which gets 40 mpg (highway), is a better fit for students looking for a more environmentally friendly ride.

Scott Griffith, chairman and CEO, Zipcar, says the alliance will help Ford and Zipcar prepare the next generation of drivers for “the future of urban transportation.” And by that, he seems to mean the idea of renting a car instead of buying one.

“We’re targeting a generation that only knows how to buy music by the song so paying for a car by the hour is a natural for them…” Griffith says.

Ford, however, sees the move somewhat differently. For many of these young drivers, Zipcar is their first experience behind the wheel. And when they finally choose to leave the program to buy a car of their own, they will (hopefully) be considering a Ford, the auto maker believes. It’s also why one of the cars provided, the Focus, includes high-tech features like the MyFord Touch and SYNC systems – things that have appeal to the smartphone-toting, always-connected young adult market.

Zipcar’s University program has been in operation for 8 years. It has partnerships with universities such as Harvard University, Yale University, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Stanford University, the University of Southern California, the University of California – Berkeley, Loyola Marymount University, Florida State University, the University of Michigan, Michigan State University, George Washington University, and others.

The network has over 605,000 members in total and over 9,000 vehicles in the U.S, Canada and the U.K. College rentals account for around 10% of Zipcar’s business.