NEW YORK (TheStreet) -- Car sharing has moved beyond the "phenomenon" stage and into possibly historical territoriy -- becoming slayer of the U.S. urban auto market.
Recent data from Navigant Research says the car sharing market should grow from 2.3 million consumers last year to more than 12 million by 2020, especially as more larger, deep-pocketed service companies the market.
"Car sharing offers consumers the ability to enjoy mobility without the expense and hassle of owning a car, or the need to frequently rent a vehicle from a traditional car rental agency," says Lisa Jerram, senior research analyst with Navigant. "In addition, car sharing is viewed by both public and private entities as a powerful tool to reduce urban congestion and [bring] lower emissions of greenhouse gases."
Car sharing lets non-vehicle owners rent vehicles either directly through a provider or through a peer-to-peer network for an hour for a day or for a weekend.
Popular cars sharing services such as Zipcar charge about $9 to $12 per hour of usage, giving non-auto owners (usually living in large, urban areas) a fairly cheap way to motor around without leaving too much of a dent in their pocketbooks, and too large an eco-footprint on the environment.
Car sharing is so popular that some analytical firms are saying the unthinkable: The industry could threaten the financial viability of the U.S. auto market.
Alix Partners, a global business advisory firm, says in a study released Wednesday that car sharing services will "have a greater impact than previously thought on the vehicle market."