On CNBC's Squawk Box Monday, Erin Burnett held an interview with Scott Griffith, the chairman and CEO of Zipcar. Zipcar is a car-sharing service that's emerged as a popular alternative to car ownership, especially in urban areas. In Washington, DC, where Zipcar merged with their car-share competition FlexCar back in 2007, they are fairly well-known and, as far as I've been able to determine, well-regarded.
Griffith was fairly bullish on his company's past success and future prospects, telling Burnett that people have gone from using Zipcar as their first, or only, car to using the service as a second car. According to Griffith, "14 million people can walk to a Zipcar in 10 minutes today," and, according to a recently conducted survey, there are potentially "37 million potential users across 100 major metro areas across the globe."
Griffith went on to describe car-sharing as "the new black." But you know what is decidedly NOT the new black? General Motors and Chrysler! And that's when Mark Haines asked Griffith an excellent question.
HAINES: Are you buying new cars?
GRIFFITH: We are buying new cars.
HAINES: GM and Chrysler cars?
GRIFFITH: We are not buying GM and Chrysler cars. In fact, we have never bought a GM or Chrysler product. What we do is we survey our members, we ask them what kind of car do they want to drive. And when we hear back what they want to drive, if we don't have it, we consider it and look at it. We have never had a request for a GM product. That's unfortunate, but that's the way it is. Out of 300,000 users that we survey every six months, I have never had a request.
BURNETT: That might be the most damning thing I have heard yet.
Well, I'd be surprised if that was the most damning thing Erin Burnett has heard on the troubled auto industry, but it surely ranks pretty high! At any rate, Zipcar's experience, I think, reveals what has to be the biggest barrier to reviving these automakers: nobody wants to even BORROW their cars for a few hours.