We Ask: A Q&A with Modo Car Coop on convenience, reliability & affordability

Modo Co-operative is one of B.C.’s leading cooperatives and is an example of the great work co-ops do in their community by adressing the transportation and environmental needs of their members. We had a chance to chat with Selena McLachlan, Modo’s Director of Marketing and Business Development, about why Modo resonates with today’s drivers and what co-op has in store for the future.

How did the idea of Modo come about?

SM: It started like many other co-ops with an innovative idea and passion. Usually co-ops are created because of a gap in the market, some need that isn’t being met. In this case, Modo is a genesis of an SFU thesis paper by a woman named Tracey Axelsson, who wanted to adopt an environmentally friendly lifestyle and talked to her friends who wanted the same and liked the convenience of having a car, but did not want the costs and hassle associated with owning one. Fueled by hard work and by grants from organizations, including Vancity, The Co-operative Auto Network, as it was called then, was formed in 1997. At launch, 2 cars were shared among 16 members in Vancouver’s West End.

Why does car sharing make sense in today’s society?

SM: Car sharing makes sense on so many levels: economically, environmentally and socially. In 1997, most people that were early adopters of car sharing did so because they could not afford a car. Our current research shows that 30-40% of our current members say that they can afford a car, but choose not to. Many people are already feeling the squeeze of affording things like housing and education, so adding the cost of a vehicle is simply too much.

Our members get to have it all: the conveniences of owning a car without the hassles and costs. This way you can save $500-600 a month and don’t have to give up driving.

Are there benefits for members who join Modo?

SM: First of all, you’re not stuck with one type of car. We have a large variety of vehicles, upwards of 50 makes and models that members can choose from. A big perk for our members is that Modo members get access to “rockstar parking,” which allows Modo vehicles to park in permit and resident-only parking areas.  Another benefit is that we are local, so our member service reps are in Vancouver. When our members call they are speaking with someone who understands the local area rather than dealing with a call centre in another part of the world who may not have that expertise.

Modo has over 500 vehicles to choose from in Vancouver & Victoria. What car is in most demand?

SM: There are a number of different trips that members take, so the most popular depends on the purpose of the trip. For quick trips or running errands, members prefer the smaller, peppy cars like the Scion FR-S and Fiat Abarth. The Scion FR-S in the Olympic Village in Vancouver is actually the most booked vehicle in our entire fleet! But if someone is heading up to one of the local mountains or out with the friends, the most popular are the Toyota RAV-4 or the Jeep Renegade. The environmental aspect is important to us as well, so our hybrid vehicles are also in demand. This is a bit of a secret, but we have put down two deposits for the new Tesla’s that are supposed to come out in 2017 at a lower price point. We’ve tested them and really like the fact they are zero emission. So we hope those will come through for 2017.

Most interesting use(s) of a Modo?

SM: A member who worked from his home office, often needed to escape from the noise of his young children. He’d book his neighbourhood Modo as a “quiet office” to make business calls. And never actually drove the car! And another non-driving use example is a member who lived in an apartment building and wanted to avoid bothering her neighbours with her trumpet playing so she would book cars to practice in.

Any famous people transported in a Modo?

SM: Sir Salman Rushdie! In 2001 he was driven around town in a Modo by his Vancouver publicist.

For more information about Modo and the benefits of the carsharing co-op, check out their website: www.modo.coop

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