Zipcar continues European expansion, buys Austrian car sharing company

Car sharing company Zipcar (s ZIP) has acquired a startup in Austria to help expand its presence in Europe, Zipcar’s CEO Scott Griffith tells me. Denzel Mobility CarSharing, which goes by the name, has 10,000 members in Austria and 200 cars in its fleet. Terms of the deal were not disclosed, but Griffith says the deal does not have a material impact on the company.
This is Zipcar’s third strategic move into the European market through acquisition or equity investment. Zipcar bought London-based Streetcar in 2010, and late last year took a majority stake investment in Barcelona-based Avancar. Frost & Sullivan has projected a $3 billion market for car sharing in the European Union alone.
Griffith told me in an interview that Zipcar has been watching for about 6 months as it captured market share in Austria. Vienna is a particularly important market for Zipcar’s expansion into Europe, said Griffith, and with Vienna, Barcelona and London, “we have three cities and a deliberate strategy to replicate our network in North America in Europe.” Zipcar will begin using the Zipcar brand for users by the beginning of next year.
While European expansion is Zipcar’s primary goal right now, expanding into Asia is a more “medium term” plan, and Griffith said Zipcar would likely create a partnership if it expands in Asia. “In Europe we want to be the operator and owner of the network, but we feel differently about the market in Asia,” said Griffith.
Beyond European growth, Zipcar has been looking into the peer-to-peer car sharing market — where car owners rent out their cars into the network — through its investment in startup Wheelz. Griffith told me that Zipcar is interested in peer-to-peer car sharing for two reasons: 1) peer-to-peer could expand the footprint of Zipcar users into markets with lower volume use, as Zipcar makes most of its money off of cars that are rented out a lot, and 2) peer-to-peer could also introduce more vehicles into a network when demand is high and the car fleet available is small.
However, Griffith also told me that peer-to-peer “as a standalone business is a tough model,” as “so much of the revenue is shared with the car owner.”
Zipcar has 700,000 members and 9,000 vehicles in its global fleet.