Airbnb-style platform drives at car rental service

Irish entrepreneur Maurice Sheehy came up with the concept of an Airbnb-style platform for car rental after a terrible experience on

holiday.

It was peak season in

the Canaries and having

endured a two-hour wait at the airport car rental desk in the heat, he found the property rental process through Airbnb to be seamless.

“Everything was so easy.

I think it took around 10 minutes and then we were done,” he said.

Later Mr Sheehy realised that his Airbnb hostess had a car parked outside the

accommodation for the week and he thought how simple

it would have been to rent that vehicle along with the property.

He started doing some

research into peer-to-peer platforms and came across Turo in the US and Drivy in France.

“I saw the growth they were having and thought there’s nothing like this in Ireland, and very little

competition in the UK. There’s huge growth and

potential in the sharing economy as a whole,” he said.

Mr Sheehy, who founded Pure Fitness gyms in Co Wicklow, took a leap of faith in Fleet, selling his house to raise €250,000 to set up the platform, rather than look for outside investors and give away large percentages of the company at the early stages. He also secured additional private funding and is working on a funding round with KPMG.

Co Wicklow-based app

development company

Showoff developed the prototype and is now Fleet tech partners. Securing an

insurance deal with AXA was a lengthy process and “a steep learning curve” for

Mr Sheehy.

He says AXA had faith in the technology and in the product from the start.

“You see on a yearly basis that car sales fluctuate, so it’s an industry that is primed for change. If you look at garages will they be necessary in 15 or 20 years or will you just order your car online like you do with a Tesla?” he said.

Fleet gives car owners the opportunity to earn money on the days their car is not in use, which can have knock-on benefits for the environment, he says.

“There’s a huge stockpile of unused cars that could be utilised more efficiently, and in turn when we do start sharing vehicles more it will have a positive effect on the environment and on traffic congestion in urban areas,” he says. B&B owners or

hotels could offer car rental as a service when renting out a room. Garages can add

revenue streams to their business model by renting out their stock.

“If they have a slow month and they have a few vehicles they can rent out to tourists or locals who need a

vehicle,” Mr Sheehy said.

Toyota Longmile has

already come onboard

offering some of its new

hybrid stock for rental through Fleet.

Sharing will bring more access to vehicles for those living rurally. Mr Sheehy, who lives in Co Wicklow, has found it difficult to rent a car from his location. He has

had to take a train to Dun Laoghaire to hire a car when his own vehicle has been in for repairs. Currently Fleet, which launched in June 2017, has a team of four. The platform has 10,500 active users, and more than 240 bookings have gone through the app. A fully-functional website is launching in the coming weeks. Using the app, car owners and renters can message each other, organise a pick-up time, collect the keys and go. Prices vary according to the vehicle type, and average listing price on the platform is €37 per day.

Mr Sheehy acknowledges the platform has a few points to work out. “We have a lot more people interested in renting cars than having cars on the platform.

However, listings are

growing daily,” he said.

The number one query is about insurance, he says. For every transaction that goes through the platform, a new policy is generated. This fully comprehensive policy supersedes the car owner’s policy for the rental period. Renters must be over 25, hold a full Irish or UK driving licence for two years and have no convictions or previous claims in the last five years.

After a successful launch in Ireland, Fleet is moving into the North in the coming weeks. The next step and the “golden goose” for Mr Sheehy is the €1.6bn UK market, the third largest in Europe.


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