AUSTIN - The two-seat SMART cars you see zooming around Austin are going to get a major upgrade.
Austin-based company car2go announced Tuesday it's replacing its entire fleet in Austin with Mercedes Benz CLA coupes and GLA SUVs.
The one-way car sharing company launched a pilot program in January to test the market response to offering Mercedes Benz coupes over the SMART cars. Company leaders say their customers prefer to drive a Benz, so much so that drivers would rent a SMART car only to drive it to a location where they could swap it out with one of the 4-door coupes.
"We found as our members have grown with the service, you know if they came on as students or young millennials back in 2009, 2010 when we first started, you know they're older now, their needs have changed," said James Emery, General Manager of car2go Austin.
So car2go Austin is permanently swapping out SMART for luxury.
The system will work the exact same. Members reserve a car on the car2go app then are given an access code to open the doors. But now the vehicles are equipped with leather seats, navigation and satellite radio.
The perks do come at a cost, but it likely won't break the bank.
"On the SMART car it was $0.41 a minute and on the Mercedes it's $0.47 a minute. So the cost isn't really that different," Emery explained.
The swap is expected to be complete by the end of November and car2go will add more vehicles in Austin. Currently the company has 300 vehicles, but the upgrade will bring the total number of vehicles up to 330.
Car2go launched in Austin in 2009 and has 67,000 members.
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