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Car2go is placing 200 new Mercedes Benz vehicles across Seattle, including this 2017 CLA model. (GeekWire photos / Taylor Soper)

Talk about an upgrade.

Car2go, traditionally known for its smaller two-seat Smart cars, is adding hundreds of new Mercedes-Benz vehicles to its fleet in seven cities across North America.

The car-sharing company — a subsidiary of Daimler AG, which also owns Mercedes Benz — will now offer 2017 Mercedes-Benz CLA and GLA models, both which have room for five passengers and certainly provide a more luxurious ride than the Smart Fortwo cars.

You probably know Car2go like this:

Those two-door Smart cars will now be joined by this:

Customers in Austin, Portland, Seattle, and Washington D.C. will be able to try the new Mercedes-Benz vehicles starting today, while those in Toronto and Vancouver can access them next month.

In Seattle, GeekWire had a chance to test drive the new models, which will replace 200 of Car2go’s older Smart cars. There will be 100 CLA sedans and 100 GLA hatchbacks in Seattle, where Car2go competes with BMW ReachNow — and will now match the vehicle quality that BMW offers. Both services are powered by smartphone technology and allow people to get around a city from Point A to Point B.

The exterior of the new vehicles differs from Car2go’s Smart cars, which are easily distinguishable with the blue trim and multiple Car2go logos. The Mercedes-Benz models offer a more subtle look — they look like regular cars, versus something that’s clearly Car2go. The vehicles come in black, white, and silver.

 

 

On the inside, the comfort of a Mercedes is night-and-day compared to Car2go’s traditional Smart cars.

There are several neat tech-infused features in both the CLA and GLA. They include a rear-view camera; blind-spot assist; adaptive braking; wipers that detect rain; automatic parking brake; a navigation monitor; SiriusXM radio; integration with Apple CarPlay and AndroidAuto; harman/kardon surround sound; and more.

In Seattle, Car2go will charge $0.49 per minute, $19 per hour, and $79 per day for the Mercedes vehicles, which is slightly higher than the Smart car rate ($0.41 per minute; $15 per hour; $59 per day). As part of a promotion, the company will charge the same rate for the Mercedes and Smart cars — $0.41 per minute — until March 31. Car2go charges a $5 registration fee for new members. The rates cover rental, gas, insurance, and parking.

That’s about in line with ReachNow, which normally charges $0.49 per minute for its BMW and MINI vehicles, but has stayed with a $0.41 per minute promotional rate since it debuted this past April in Seattle.

I enjoyed test-driving both the CLA and GLA; it was so much more enjoyable than my experience driving Car2go’s smaller vehicle to the airport last year. This is an important point — one advantage ReachNow had was that it offered more spacious and higher quality vehicles compared to Car2go, but now that’s changed.

Seattle is Car2go’s No. 1 market in the U.S., now with more than 82,000 members using 750 vehicles in the city since it debuted in 2013. Car2go expanded its service area to the entire city in March 2015.

“Seattle has adopted car-sharing very quickly,” said Michael Hoitink, car2go Seattle General Manager.

Michael Hoitink, car2go Seattle General Manager.

car2go began piloting Mercedes-Benz cars in Canada two years ago. It anticipates that Mercedes-Benz vehicles will comprise the majority of its North American fleet by the end of 2017.

Hoitink told GeekWire that the decision to add the GLA and CLA models came about due to demand from members.

“They wanted more room and they wanted something that was stylish, safe, and convenient to drive,” he said.

ReachNow, meanwhile, just surpassed 40,000 members in Seattle. It only launched nine months ago, but has already expanded service in Seattle and come to Portland and Brooklyn. ReachNow is also testing new services like an Uber competitor called Ride, allowing people to hail rides from the ReachNow app instead of driving the vehicles themselves.

BMW’s ReachNow service launched this past April in Seattle.

BMW launched ReachNow in Seattle after the City Council approved an expansion of three additional free-floating car-sharing programs — along with Car2go — in January 2015.

Hoitink noted that when Daimler first tested the Car2go concept in 2008, many thought it was a bad idea. Car2go’s growth — it had a 43 percent membership increase in 2016 and surpassed the 2 million member mark in October — says otherwise.

“Having ReachNow and other companies come into the market just proves that there is a market for car-sharing,” Hoitink said. “This is vital and it’s the way transportation is growing. It’s an option for people to be able to get around without owning a vehicle or several vehicles.”

Car2go also just replaced thousands of its Smart Fortwo vehicles with new models and revamped its app to create a more streamlined reservation experience.

“At Mercedes-Benz we see the four key pillars for future mobility as connectivity, autonomous driving, carsharing, and electrification,” Dieter Zetsche, CEO of Daimler AG and Head of Mercedes-Benz Cars, said in a statement. “Today we take another step toward that future by adding the new Mercedes-Benz CLA and GLA to car2go’s North American fleet. car2go is already the most popular carsharing service in the world. Now it will be even more attractive to small groups of friends and families who want to conveniently travel around cities in style, safety, and comfort.”

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