Local nonprofit PhillyCarShare has announced that it has been purchased by Enterprise, the national car rental chain and the world’s largest car rental company.
PhillyCarShare faced a debt of nearly $2.7 million in back taxes it owes to the state. The debt made it impossible to acquire new cars and grow the company. Sources say creditors were knocking on their doors, financing for a new fleet was impossible, and few options remained.
Gerald Furgione, executive director of PhillyCareShare, says the move will allow the company to add new cars and offer electric cars in the future.
“It will renew our whole mission of reducing automobile dependency in the city of Philadelphia,” he says.
Furgione acknowledges the grassroots effort that brought about PhillyCarShare, but says national chains are ready to step in.
“I think that the nonprofits in the U.S. were the ones that were originally the incubators of car sharing,” he says. “It’s time that nonprofits realize that what they pioneered is a great idea that other companies can come in now and take it to the next level.”
A statement by Enterprise indicated it would pay, but also continue to fight, the $2 state tax levied on all rentals, regardless of the rental’s duration.
Lingering in a Whole Foods market during a rainstorm, PhillyCarShare member Erica Engstrom says she received an e-mail from the company Tuesday announcing the buyout.
“I was surprised, honestly,” she says. “I think they really pride themselves on being independent. But I know it’s also hard to have a green independent thing going on in the city without a lot of support.”
Co-founder and current board member Eli Massar reflects on the end of the venture.
“It’s bittersweet today,” says Massar. “We had to be realistic about what was best for our employees, our members and creditors.”
Massar says Enterprise’s resources are unparalleled.
“My hope is that those will be applied to making car sharing even better than what we were able to do,” he says.
The PhillyCarShare board will now oversee PhillyPatientRide, a nonprofit that enables volunteers to drive patients with cancer and other illnesses to doctor appointments.
PhillyCarShare will expand its services as it loses its nonprofit status. Does that make a difference to you, as long as the company’s mission stays the same? Are you more or less likely to use the service now? Sound off in the comments below.