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Airport Car Rental Startup Silvercar Ramps Up Expansion, With Plans For 7 Cities By Year-End

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Airport car rental startup Silvercar has increased the number of markets it hopes to launch in by the end of the year, as it seeks to more aggressively make its services available to more potential customers. Now available at three airports, it hopes to add a fourth by the end of the month, and expects to be in seven different markets by the end of 2013.

I’ve been covering Silvercar almost since its launch, and even got a chance to try it out for myself several months ago.* The idea behind the service is that it provides a simple, on-demand way to rent an awesome car online or via mobile phone. The app works by offering users a mobile app for booking, unlocking, and powering services while renting the car.

Silvercar offers one make and model of automobile — the Audi A4 — which simplifies the process of stocking inventory and renting out cars. Since it doesn’t have to handle multiple different classes of vehicle, customers don’t have to worry about different prices of rentals or trying to find just the right car.

Having one type of vehicle also makes opening up at new airports extremely easy for the startup. Well, easy-er. It still needs to deal with finding space near whichever airport it hopes to launch in, you know, a place to stage inventory and have customers pick up their cars.

In its launch market at Dallas/Fort Worth, Silvercar is part of the airport’s ConRAC (consolidated rental car facility). At launch, the idea was that it would gradually introduce services in other ConRACs over time. But there was a problem with that model — openings in those facilities only pop up every now and then, which means that Silvercar’s ability to expand was limited by external forces.

Starting in Austin, Silvercar began testing a way to get around that problem. To make its cars available there, it found space a few minutes near the airport to house its cars. From a user experience perspective, in airports that don’t have ConRACs, customers are able to hit a button once their planes have landed to indicate that they’ve arrived. They then get picked up by a Silvercar employee in a courtesy car, who drives the customer to the nearby lot. Once there, they pick the car they want, scan it with the mobile app, and are on their way.

The service was sold out during SXSW and led the company to keep a presence there. After that success, the company decided to make cars available at Dallas Love Field as well. But it’s looking to move outside of Texas and expects its service to launch in another (unnamed) market by the end of this month.

When we first talked to Silvercar about its expansion plans, the company was targeting one new airport each quarter. Now it’s looking to expand into two per quarter. With three airports now and half a year ahead of it, that means it’ll probably be in seven by the end of the year.

Silvercar raised $11.5 million in series A funding led by Austin Ventures, with participation from CrunchFund, SV Angel, Chris Dixon, and Dave Morin.

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* Disclosures galore: Silvercar is a CrunchFund portfolio company. That’s important because CrunchFund was started by Michael Arrington, also founder of this website. That test drive of my Silvercar rental at Dallas-Fort Worth back in January was partially paid for by the company. Silvercar also sponsored our recent Austin meetup, offering us a few cars for use during the meetup in exchange for a table and branding at the event.