Should You Stay or Should You Go Now?
It’s the end of the world as we know it.
Or so it would seem. If you’re a Turo host, and you spend a significant portion of your life scrolling Facebook, you may be led to believe that an apocalypse has occurred, and the host community is now divided into two tribes vying for survival in a new Mad Maxish dystopian reality.
It was announced in the third week of March, 2023, that Turo is ending its relationship with Carsync, a platform that a large segment of the host community uses for things such as message automation, automated toll and EV charging reimbursement processing, fleet analytics, market insights, etc. The reason that was given is that third party platforms, with API access, present risks to the security of Turo user data, both hosts and guests.
Carsync is a great platform, with well-built tools, that has made hosting much, much easier, particularly for large fleet managers with dozens, or hundreds of vehicles. My fleet management partner, with whom I’ve personally coordinated over 100 vehicles placed in multiple markets, relies solely on Carsync to manage over 500 vehicles in 8 cities.
This is a major disruption for many hosts, and though Turo also announced, a day later, that they are releasing tools to replace much of what Carsync accomplished, in my view Turo did not manage this change well, and in fact, managed it backwards. This, in the context of historically not managing other changes well, such as the recent debacle with a badly revised check-in process, and an inferior auto-messaging feature, has thrown fuel on the dumpster fire.
So, here we are. The new reality begins May 1, 2023.
Meet the two tribes.
You likely noticed one tribe first, because they are the angriest, and the loudest.
We’ll call them “The Resistance.”
Without knowing all of the facts behind the decision, and filling in the blanks with speculations, accusations, and castigations, The Resistance has raged against Turo. They quickly put together petitions, organized walkouts, and called for other hosts to voluntarily shut off their revenue to join them in their rage for boycotts. I haven’t seen calls for a class action lawsuit yet, but that’s usually also on the menu when these changes occur.
This tribe will legitimately experience a disruption of their fleet management operations. For some of them, that disruption will be significant and frustrating. And they are right in their opinions that Turo should have managed this change better, by creating, debugging, perfecting, and getting widespread buy-in of their suite of tools before turning off the lights with Carsync.
Unfortunately, this tribe also sees this as the apocalypse. They don’t see a way to function without Carsync. They feel like their only option is to leave the platform, either temporarily as a show of defiance, or permanently, to either exit the industry or form their own platform or direct rental company.
For the resistance, this looks like the end of the road.
Meet “The Adapters.”
There’s another tribe. These are the folks who have been around for a while and understand that change is constant and inevitable. Like me, they’ve seen Turo make truly damaging changes in the past, forcing us to significantly change our way of doing things to mitigate the damage.
There was that time that Turo changed the mileage policy with those changes meaning that a guest can put up to 6,000 miles on your vehicle in a month before being charged an overage, when before we could limit it to 1,500. This was a massive hit to revenue and threat to bottom lines and fleet valuation.
There was that other time that Turo reduced the minimum guest age to 18 which meant high school kids could now rent our vehicles, and my personal claim rate jumped, almost exclusively due to stupid kids doing stupid things, and causing my assets to drop in value with Carfax entries.
When these policy changes rolled out, The Adapters did just that. We adjusted, adapted, made the necessary changes to our operations, and in the two years that followed, not only survived, but thrived.
The Adapters are generally looking at this as a minor issue compared to other things we’ve been through that threatened to cause real damage. They understand that, as frustrating as it is, this is just an operational adjustment, not a threat to our business or our financial position.
What will happen when (or if) The Resistance walks?
The Resistance believes that a walkout, or boycott, or even removal of their vehicles from the platform will cause the Turo executives to fall to their knees in repentance, beg our forgiveness, reverse the decision, get right with God, and promise to be good boys and girls from now on.
Let’s have a little reality check.
According to Turo’s SEC S-1 filing there are approximately 161,000 active vehicles on the platform in over 7,500 cities, booked by about 1.3 million guests. The Turo Wikipedia page puts the total vehicle count (active + snoozed/temporarily unlisted) at 450,000 as of 2020. Even the largest single fleet manager on the platform, with about 1,000 vehicles, accounts for only 0.6% of the active inventory, and 0.2% of the total inventory.
Turo just released its financials. Remember 2021, the strongest year in Turo’s history? They did $469 million in revenue that year. In 2022, they did $747 million. That’s in a year with rampant inflation, ridiculous gas prices, and repeated and widespread flight disruptions. In 2022 they doubled their marketing spend from $53 million in 2021 to $111 million in 2022. And their net income rose from -$40 million in 2021 to +$158 million in 2022. They also won more airport restriction battles, and helped overturn the New York ban allowing them to begin operating in the 11th largest city in the world.
All of that to say, if a Facebook organized walkout happens on May 1st, or any other date, it will be about as painful for Turo as a mosquito bite is to an elephant. Nobody will notice. Well, let me correct that. Some will notice, but I’ll get to that in a moment.
What about if hosts around the country, even big fleet managers, decide to de-fleet permanently? It happens every day. And again, for the most part, Turo won’t notice any impact on their financials. Now, there are a handful of fleet managers who have hundreds of vehicles that will be noticed if they de-fleet, but even that will pose no threat to the company, thus accomplishing nothing in terms of a reversal of the Carsync decision.
The Adapters will feel the walkout.
I mentioned earlier that one group of host will notice the walkout, or the permanent de-fleeting of vehicles. That group is the hosts who make adjustments to their operations, and continue business as usual, just with some different practices in place.
What will they notice?
They’ll notice their market isn’t quite as saturated as it was before.
They’ll notice increased bookings when guests who would have booked vehicles with The Resistance book vehicles with The Adapters instead.
If the exodus is large enough, they may notice that they can now charge higher daily rates than before because there is less supply to meet demand, and their own profit margins will improve. Some will even take that opportunity to expand their own fleets, to replace the vehicles unlisted by The Resistance.
So should you stay or should you go now?
This article cannot answer that for you. Only you can know what’s best for you, your business, and your financial position.
If you honestly feel that the loss of Carsync is a fatal blow to your business which cannot be overcome, and you are convinced that there is no other way to operate without it? Perhaps it’s time to move on to the next great thing in your life, something you’re better prepared to manage yourself without life or death reliance upon outside systems.
Conversely, if you’re one of The Adapters who can transition to the Turo suite of tools, as inferior and in need of debugging as they may be upon release, adjust your operations accordingly, and continue business as usual, please stay. And in the weeks and months ahead, look for, and seize the opportunities presented to you when The Resistance leaves.
Make your voice heard, as a professional.
Regardless of what tribe you’re in, any time big changes like this happen, that you feel are negatively impactful to your business, you should speak up.
Email your Power Host rep and let them know how you feel.
Email the CEO if you want. He always responds.
Share your opinions on social media.
But as you speak up, remember, that the tone and tenor you use will communicate more about you as a person, as a business owner, than anything else.
Temper tantrums will say one thing about you.
Speaking as an educated, articulate, and emotionally controlled business person who wants to effect positive change for the greater good will say another thing about you, and is actually more likely to be heard and considered.
I encourage you to choose the latter.