Sharing-economy-powered car rental competitor Turo is taking its battle with the incumbents to places few have dared venture. The company used computer vision to determine the color of all the cars in its inventory and, starting today, is making it possible to select the car for your next adventure based on your favorite color. The company also announced it has doubled the number of cars available on the platform.
For most rental car companies, everything is pool-based. The company knows it has 20 mid-sized sedans, 15 pick-up trucks and five executive cars; if you book a car, it will allocate to you one of the cars out of the pool. The problem, of course, is that you have no say in the make and model of your car (if you hate the Chevrolet Spark, it sucks to be you; it may very well be the car you get), much less what color the car is.
Turo, by virtue of being a peer-to-peer car rental company, has the luxury of listing specific cars — and its marketing team has been hard at work to see how it can turn that to an advantage.
“We are staying true to our CEO’s rallying cry. If it sounds like there is something a car rental company would never do,” says Turo’s chief product officer, Tom Wang, “we should do that.”
“In addition to launching in Canada, our first international market,” says Wang, “we have doubled our available inventory in less than a year.”
Turo won’t share the number of cars on its platform (so determining whether a doubling of inventory is impressive or not is tricky), but it does share that it has listings in around 3,000 cities across North America.
You can drive a rainbow
The company is making a bet that people actually care about the color of car they are driving, which I’m far from convinced about. Would you, for example, be willing to travel an extra couple of miles to get a red Audi A4 instead of a silver one? Personally, I know I would give a minimal number of fucks, but the company maintains that searching by color is an oft-requested feature.
“A lot of our car owners will deliver the car to wherever you are,” says Steve Webb, the company’s director of communications, assuring me that the additional distance wouldn’t have to be a problem if you really want that bright orange Mustang over a drab and subtle silver one.
Turo’s messaging makes it clear why it cares, and why it thinks you should, too. In the effort to differentiate itself, it’s playing a shrewd card. For Turo, it’s not about the cars for rent — in fact, its homepage is more about adventure than about cars with specific specifications. Against that backdrop, it might make sense to offer search by colors you like (or, perhaps more crucially, removing results from the search of colors you can’t stand).
“The average rental duration on Turo is five days,” says Webb, explaining why the company doesn’t see the Ubers, Lyfts and Getarounds of the world as competitors. The company moved away from hourly rentals three years ago, shifting itself out of the competitive short-term ride-sharing market. “The minimum rental is a day and we just don’t see people starting a weekend trip by hailing an Uber. Renting a car makes a lot more sense.”
Predictably, the Turo team believes that renting a car on Turo makes more sense than giving Hertz a call. The company hints it has a series of other innovations in the pipeline, too, which is probably a good thing, because I’m not at all convinced that searching for pink, blue or purple cars is going to convince the next generation of Turo customers to flock to the platform.