US rival drives off with Streetcar

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The Independent Online

Streetcar, the pay-as-you-go car club, has been bought by US rival Zipcar in a £32m deal that will see the British brand disappear.

Zipcar, which is based in Cambridge, Massachusetts, already has operations in Spain and will inherit a company with cars and vans in 1,400 locations across eight UK cities. Zipcar has 360,000 members in Spain and the US, but has proportionally fewer cars available.

Streetcar allows members to use its vehicles for between 30 minutes and six months, charging them for usage and fuel. It also charges an annual fee of about £60.

The group was founded by Andrew Valentine in 2004, who described himself as "thrilled". He said: "We founded Streetcar with a vision of being the leading car club operator in Europe, and joining forces with Zipcar will help us realise that goal much more quickly. We look forward to continuing to deliver great service to our members."

The Streetcar brand is now expected to disappear.

A number of Streetcar customers have reacted with disappointment over recent decisions to phase out a number of smaller cars, and raise hourly charges to £5.95.

The chairman and chief executive of Zipcar, Scott Griffith, said that the company did not anticipate further price increases, but acknowledged that variable costs, such as petrol prices, could see overall bills going up. At present, Streetcar covers a certain level of petrol costs, as well as insurance and the London congestion charge.

"When economies of scale come into force we think the cost structure will come in line to where we want it," he said. "We have been adding some features such as price bundles that Streetcar [is] not currently offering. In the near term, the more than 400,000 members of both companies will benefit from more cars, more convenience and enhanced technology."

Last year, Zipcar reported revenues of about £84m. Streetcar said that it had an income of about £16m.