Dublin, Ireland – One shared vehicle in the U.S. replaces an average of 15 personally-owned vehicles, and those sharing cars drive 31 per cent less, according to new data from research firm Frost & Sullivan.

The study found that the economic recession that started in December 2007 in the United States caused consumers to be cognizant of fuel efficiency and transit costs, and car sharing became an emerging solution. The car-sharing industry has registered significant growth during the past two years, with the study noting that the services reduce the number of vehicles on the road, reduce emissions, and relieve consumers of ownership costs.

In urban areas, the reduction in the number of vehicles and miles driven translates into 482,170 fewer tons of carbon dioxide emissions. On average, a car owner who drives 12,000 miles (19,312 km) per year, at an average driving speed of 30 mph (48 km/h), can save US$1,834 by shifting to a car-sharing service.

However, the report noted that the fast development of car-sharing programs has proved to be a double-edged sword for vehicle manufacturers. While it means sales opportunity, it can lead to a further decline in sales of new vehicles. Some manufacturers have gotten into the business, including Daimler, which in 2009 launched its own car-sharing subsidiary, Car2Go, in Europe, and is testing a program with 200 Smart cars for 13,000 city employees in Austin, Texas.

Car-sharing businesses also tend to lose money until they reach a critical mass, and external funding is vital for new programs to survive the costs associated with starting up.

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