Hertz Moves to Dominate Car-Sharing Market

Following in the footsteps of U-Haul and Enterprise, Hertz (s HTZ) rental cars is rolling out its car-sharing program in December, starting with New York, London and Paris. Unlike Enterprise or U-Haul, though, Hertz will be going after consumers.

“Hertz’s car sharing is located in city environments and is available directly to consumers. In addition, it is going after B2B business as well as B2C, government and universities,” says Paula Rivera, a spokeswoman for the company.

Called Connect by Hertz, the Hertz car-sharing service will mimic existing car-sharing services by providing access to cars in lots throughout cities as opposed to merely offering the service through its existing rental lots. “We’re starting out in neighborhood parking locations, specifically parking garages and on-street parking areas,” Rivera says.

In an effort to best competitors, the company will also provide GPS, iPod connectivity, and generally lower rates — $1 per hour less than Zipcar, on average, according to Rivera. Hertz has also pledged to offer only vehicles that are EPA SmartWay certified, meaning they’ve earned a score of 6 or more (out of 10) on both the Air Pollution and Greenhouse Gas scores, with a combined score of at least 13. At its European locations, Connect by Hertz will only offer cars that outperform the current EU standards for auto emissions (130 grams per kilometer).

Though starting out in just three cities, Hertz plans to expand its car-sharing service quickly in 2009. “We have aggressive plans for expansion and are keeping all of our options open,” Rivera says.

Could part of those aggressive plans include buying out, say, Zipcar? Rivera is “unable to comment,” but it would seem like a smart move for both parties, given that Hertz needs lots and Zipcar’s dreams of a successful IPO may be dwindling in the current economic climate.