By on March 30, 2017

2017 Audi A4 Ultra

Today’s car rental services span the gamut in terms of vehicular offerings and price, but it used to be a more utilitarian affair. Granted, the norm is still to hop online and click the little box next to economy or compact with those full-size sedans reserved for when your employer is footing the bill. However, special discounts or a base Mitsubishi Mirage occasionally make SUVs and even premium cars too tempting to pass up. For those with more discerning tastes, there are entire agencies devoted to specialty cars.

Silvercar is a rental firm that allows customers to charter an Audi A4 similarly to how you would reserve a ZipCar — log in, schedule a pickup, and remotely unlock the vehicle for as long you need access. It’s akin to BMW’s ReachNow, General Motors’ Maven, and Mercedes’ Car2Go — that latter of which is finally replacing its fleet of Smart cars with Benz-branded vehicles. But Audi doesn’t actually own Silvercar, it just happens to be a company providing the exact service that every single automaker wants to include as part of an updated mobility identity. Oh, and it exclusively rents out A4s.

Obviously, Audi is purchasing it.

“Audi and Silvercar share a vision for the future of transportation,” said Matt Carpenter, Audi of America’s chief financial officer, in a corporate announcement. “This acquisition enables Audi to move forward with a progressive partner and continue our technology leadership into the next era of mobility.’’

It’s almost like the Texas-based Silvercar saw what was going in the industry and then designed itself for the sole purpose of being acquired by Audi. If someone wants to become even richer than they already are, copy this business model with Lexus. It doesn’t even need to be a successful company; it just needs to survive long enough to be bought up.

Audi and Silvercar have had a working relationship since 2012, developing and delivering the technology that makes its car-sharing system work. In 2015, Audi even issued a $28 million Series C investment for Silvercar — helping to ripen the fruit before the German carmaker finally decided to pluck it from the vine.

“It’s no secret that Silvercar and Audi have a longstanding relationship,” Silvercar CEO Luke Schneider wrote on the company’s website. “Heck, we’ve only ever rented Audi A4s.”

No deal terms have been announced but, according to Audi, the two companies anticipate the approval of the transaction by responsible regulatory authorities soon “with the transaction concluding in the first half of 2017.”

[Image: Audi]

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15 Comments on “Audi is Purchasing an Upscale Rental Service That Exclusively Uses A4s...”

  • avatar

    Silvercar took any possible unpredictability out of car rental. If my family is any indicator, a lot of people stress on what kind of vehicle you end up with at rental time, because the industry’s capacity for bait and switch is legendary. If you have ever driven an Audi A4, you know exactly what you are going to get.

  • avatar

    It is a great service and the rental rates are often very competitively priced. I’ve enjoyed driving the fully loaded Audis, especially on long weekend getaways.

  • avatar

    We’ll get boatloads of horrifically worn out A4s on the second hand market now…

    • 0 avatar

      I disagree that ex-rental cars are normally “horrifically worn out”. Most rental companies get rid of their vehicles long before they are horrifically worn out. Another issue is that a typical rental company is far more methodical about the scheduled regular maintenance than an average car owner. That’s because if your branch operates say eighty A4s, you will know damn well what the schedule maintenance items are, as opposed to an average car owner who not only forgets to replace say brake and transmission fluid, but also forgets to check on any recalls.

      And finally, when you buy an ex-rental A4 with 50,000 miles, it’s likely going to be at most three year old, while a non-rental car with same miles will be at least 6 years old. The issue is that it’s far more likely that your ex-rental is not only much newer, was better maintained, but that it’s still under warranty for a half year or so. Within this half year, you research what the problem areas of this car are, and if there is a problem, just take it to the dealer for repairs.

      Personally, I tend to stay away from rental cars not because they’re horrifically worn out (most are not), but because the rental companies tend to buy cars that are known as the “rental specials”. These are basically the cars that consumers don’t want to buy at retail prices, they’re behind the curve, and they’re normally pretty poorly equipped.

  • avatar

    This company takes care of my two major beefs about the rental-car industry. This comment is not really relevant to the post, but you’ve given me an opportunity to rant, so here I go!

    1) Sizing. To everyone else on the planet, a Corolla is a compact car, and if you want a mid-size, there’s Camry. But in the rental-car world, a Corolla is considered a mid-size. WHY?

    2) “or similar”. The Hyundai Accent is a decent car, for what it is. “Hyundai Accent or similar” does not, and should not mean you get a Chevy Spark or Mitsubishi Mirage.

    Now, stay off my lawn!

    • 0 avatar

      These days rental car companies really like to play fast an loose with the size classifications. A few years ago, midsize would have been a Taurus/Impala, now it’s a Hyundai Elantra.

      • 0 avatar

        So much this. A Hyundai Elantra is not a midsize car. A Ford Focus is not a midsize car.

        OAH: I was at SEATAC last month and they were nearly out of cars. I ended up stuck with an Accent (oddly enough, labeled as a compact) but asked about the RRS. Apparently, a barebones Range Rover Sport with 18″ wheels and no options is an exotic. $250/day. Absolute Insanity.

    • 0 avatar
      Matt Posky

      I don’t mind a rant if it’s relevant — and this most certainly was.

    • 0 avatar

      Yeah. I don’t rent cars much, but I have seen such tricks, where I rent a car like Mazda 6 or similar, and they give me.. a PT cruiser. WTF.

    • 0 avatar

      The German affinity for same sausage, different length, ought to be pretty much optimal for a single-brand rental fleet. No “midsize” vs “compact” quarrels, nor “or equivalent…” Instead, just pick the number after the A that best matches your size requirement.

  • avatar
    Big Al From 'Murica

    So does this relegate Audi to “fleet queen” status?

    • 0 avatar

      I wouldn’t mind. After the dieselgate and the endless string of reliability scandals surrounding the VAG vehicles, I don’t know why I’d buy one, either new or used. I’d rent one or lease a new one, and only if it’s a killer once in a life deal.

  • avatar

    As long as Audi doesn’t change their business model or increase prices significantly, this is a great service. All small (midsize) rental cars should be A4’s. They are a good driving, classy looking car with a decent amount of space in the cabin and trunk. It’s a very functional small car that happens to be an Audi. I would pay a premium to know that I was getting an A4 every time instead of a Chrysler 200 (or similar) that may actually turn out to be a minivan or a Kia Rio, or occasionally a Dodge Durango in Manhattan. It would be interesting to know how much more (or less) an A4 depreciates over its term in the rental lot versus a standard mid-size rental car. I’m sure the cost of acquisition is higher.

    • 0 avatar

      Working in the industry, I’d also be interested to see what the accident rate is on the Audis versus a typical midsizer. There are certain models that attract a more *ahem* excitable customer than an average Camry, and are more prone to being damaged or written off (both the downtime and extra depreciation are negatives).

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