There’s been a lot of excitement in Silicon Valley lately over the automobile business. As if we’ve magically been transported back to 1908, we’re now seeing a new generation of companies breathing new life into everything from taxi services to auto repair. In particular, startups like RelayRides, GetAround, Wheelz, Zipcar, RideJoy, SideCar, Lyft and Uber — to name a few — are leveraging collaborative consumption and peer-to-peer models to bring a new buzz to car rental, ridesharing and cabs.
But there is one piece of the car puzzle that is often left out: The pain in the ass that is the airport car rental experience. That’s where Silvercar comes in. The Austin-based startup, which will launch officially this winter, announced today that it has raised $11.5 million in series A financing to help it fuel a transformation of airport car rental. The round was led by Austin Ventures, with participation from CrunchFund and SV Angel, along with angels like Hunch’s Chris Dixon and Path’s Dave Morin.
With this new coin in its coffers, Silvercar is building out a fleet of sexy luxury cars to take on the tired old sedans of incumbents like Hertz, Enterprise and Dollar. Although most car rental services try to offer a variety of makes and models (and usually struggling to provide it), Silvercar is taking that choice out of the equation completely. Befitting its name, Silvercar’s fleet consists exclusively of silver 2013 Audi A4s. Luckily for those freedom of choice fighters, it’s a pretty good looking car.
As to how it works: The Silvercar experience intends to be fully mobile. The startup will offer a smartphone app later this year, which will allow users to book a car in advance and manage their vehicle settings through their personal profiles. Riders will be able to unlock their silver Audis by scanning the vehicle with their smartphones, at which point the service will automatically push itineraries, destinations, etc. to the car’s multimedia dashboard.
The goal of the mobile experience is to remove check-in lines and counters from the airport car rental experience, allowing those with reservations to go straight to their cars, which are guaranteed to be premium thanks to Silvercar’s “no clunkers, just Audis” policy. For those who forget to book in advance, Silvercar provides self-serve kiosks and on-site assistance.
According to Silvercar CEO Luke Schneider (formerly the CTO of Zipcar and head of its FastFleet division), the price of rentals will be comparable to standard and full-sized cars from the big car rental companies.
Schneider, who worked at Flexcar before it merged with Zipcar, has a lot of experience in the car rental business, so it will be interesting to see how Silvercar comes out of the gates. To that point, the company has yet to announce its locations, as it’s currently finishing up talks with airports, but it plans to reveal locations, booking and rental dates soon.
Silvercar at home here.
Audi Photo from Aol’s Autoblog