Consumer Reports Top 10 Picks for 2013 [videos]

consumer reports auto issue

Consumer Reports at the National Press Club in Washington DC today announced the magazine's well regarded Top 10 Picks from the magazine's much anticipated April Annual Auto Issue. They presented their findings on vehicle and quality rankings on a wide range of automakers and vehicles.

Jake Fisher, Director of Auto Testing for Consumer Reports, and Rik Paul, Consumer Reports Auto Editor, presented the non-biased and independent findings to an eager audience of Washington Automotive Press Association (WAPA) members, various well-known media outlets, and reps from most of the leading automakers. Jessica Anderson, the President of WAPA, even commented it was a noticeably large turnout. Hey it's Consumer Report's and a lot of people turn to this information when shopping for a new car.

Consumer Reports Top Pick's for 2013

  • Honda Accord (Midsized Sedan) – Consumer Report's really felt that Honda “nailed it” with the redesign of the Honda Accord. The reliability, roominess, comfort, reasonable pricing, and fuel efficiency all helped the Honda Accord earn high marks and a Top Pick this year. ($23,270 to $30,860)
  • Subaru Impreza (Compact Car) – The Subaru Impreza won the Compact Car category last year and now takes the “Top Pick” title this year too. Consumer Report's noted that both the sedan and hatchback are great values and have great features. This includes nimble handling, a compliant and absorbent ride which the editors note rivals luxury sedans. Along with impressive fuel economy for an All-Wheel-Drive (AWD) car the Subaru Impreza is hard to beat.
  • Hyundai Elantra (Budget Car) – This one of the Consumer Report's top rated compact sedans and it is clear why. Hyundai offers a really great value for those on a budget. The Hyundai Elantra is more roomy, provides decent handling, a comfortable ride, smooth powertrain, a nice interior with good fit and finish. ($18,445)
  • Toyota Prius (Green Car) – The Toyota Prius can't seem to be dethroned from winning this category. It has been named a Consumer Report's “Top Pick” 12 times before and this now this is the 10th consecutive year it has won a Top Pick. The editors noted that it is hard to beat the fuel economy, hatchback versatility, practicality, affordability, and value the Toyota Prius offers consumers. Environmentalists and liberals can rejoice and can continue to feel proud of the beloved Toyota Prius. ($26,750)
  • Audi A6 (Luxury Car) – This comes as a bit of surprise since Audi has not had a car be named a “Top Pick” be Consumer Report's in over 10 years. The Audi A6 received good marks for having a stunning supercharged V6 engine, smooth 8-speed automatic transmission, and a ride you would expect from a German automobile. Handling is also quick, precise and agile and driving an Audi A6 is a sinful pleasure. The interior and high-tech features also impressed the Consumer Report's editors. ($56,295)
  • BMW 328i (Sports Sedan) – The BMW 328i edged out the Infiniti G37 which took the Sports Sedan category for 4 years. Like the Audi, BMW had not had a Consumer Report's “Top Pick” for 10 years. What made editors change their minds? The redesigned BMW 328i is roomier, more luxurious, and has better fuel efficiency with the 2-liter turbocharged 4-cylinder engine. Like all BMW's it still retains fun-to-drive characteristics. ($43,195)
  • Honda CR-V (Small SUV) – A smooth ride, responsive powertrain, excellent fuel economy, a great ride, roomy interior, standard backup camera, and Honda reliability make the Honda CR-V a Top Pick. ($26,455)
  • Toyota Highlander (Midsized SUV) – The Toyota Highlander returns for 2013 as it won this category last year. Consumer Report's notes that it has the practicality of an SUV with the refinement of a great sedan. The Toyota Highlander provides a quiet cushy ride along with secure handling and a smooth powertrain. With Toyota reliability it is hard to go wrong with the Toyota Highlander. ($38,578 to $47,255)
  • Honda Odyssey (Minivan) – Consumer Report's renamed the “Family Hauler” category to Minivan this year. That's probably because you can't get anything better than a minivan for a family hauler! 🙂 Editors noted that Honda Odyssey provides a comfortable ride, roominess, and versatile cabin that is quiet. Rik Paul noted that is provides a rear backup camera as standard which Consumre Report's that was an essential safety feature around a car that is going to have small children around it. With Honda reliability the Honda Odyssey takes the Minivan category. ($36,830)
  • Scion FR-S and Subaru BRZ (Sports Car) – These twin sisters might have different names but are the same car underneath. The super-sharp handling, fabulous braking, a powerful engine, and Rear-Wheel-Drive (RWD) make this a true driver's car. (I know since I have drove a Subrau BRZ quite fast at the WAPA Rally.) Reliability, good fuel economy, and good fit and finish all at a reasonable price earned the Subaru BRZ and Scion FR-S a Top Pick. ($25,025 and $27,117)

To earn the coveted Top Pick from Consumer Report's they must meet high criteria in 3 areas: road test, reliability, and safety. The vehicles must rank at or near the top of the vehicle category and earn above average reliability grades. Reliability data is calculated from the Consumer Report's survey that non-profit organization send out every year to subscribers. In the last survey data on 1.2 million vehicles was collected. Vehicles should also perform adequately in testing conducted by the government or insurance industry.

What is interesting is that last year no Hondas were on the Top Picks list. Honda seems to have adjusted quickly though and has come back into the ring fighting strong earning 3 Top Picks for 2013. Hyundai earning a top pick shows how far the automaker has come in a few years. It is also nice to see the Audi A6 and BMW 328i earn Top Pick selections, but it will remain to be seen whether they can retain the title next year.

Noticeably absent on the Consumer Reports Top Picks list were vehicles from domestic automakers, which means Chrysler, Ford, and General Motors (GM). Jake Fisher commented during his presentation that while domestic automakers have made significant strides and impressive improvements to their vehicle lineups over the past couple years, they still have quite a long way to go. Japanese, German, other automakers are also improving their lineups making it somewhat difficult to compete and catch-up so to speak with the competition’s quality and reliability.

Interestingly though during the Q&A after the press conferences I asked Jake Fisher and Rik Paul, “What car would you the two of you personally buy with your own money?” To my surprise they were willing to answer the question and did not say “No!”

Rik Paul commented he had been recently driving the Ford Fusion and really liked it but said that it does depend on a someone's priorities. Notably the Ford Fusion scored just below the Honda Accord in Consumer Reports Annual Auto Issue this year. If he was going to get a Ford Fusion he would probably opt for the Ford Fusion Hybrid. Rik Paul did mention to me that he changes his mind every other week since he gets to test drive so many different cars. If only we could all be so lucky!

Jake Fisher reply to my question was that he really enjoyed the VW Golf TDI since it is a lot of fun-to-drive. He did mentioned that it would of course have to be a stick-shift, like any auto enthusiast would want. Although squeezing kids in back would be tough. (By the way he said “That's a good question!” in case you were wondering!”

The Consumer Reports auto testing is widely regarded in the auto industry as the best. The cars that Consumer Reports uses in testing are not given to them by the automakers as press fleet vehicles, like most auto publications get them. Consumer Reports buys the cars anonymously to make sure the cars do not have any special “tweaks” to them. They go through an extremely comprehensive testing procedures and all ratings are non-biased.

While there might be disagreement and hard-feelings about the ratings and the Top Picks list…it is hard to deny the impact the Consumer Report's Annual Auto Issue has on the auto industry.

 

2013 Washington Auto Show Kicks Off Today

washington auto show
Lexus LF-LC Concept

The 2013 Washington Auto Show kicked off today, February 1st, and this year looks like it will be even better than last year.  Packed with Celebrity guests, the Advanced Technology Superhighway, the 2013 Green Technology Award, and lots of policy talk people should have at the 2013 Washington Auto Show.

Washington, D.C. has long been the site of the country’s greatest ambitions for progress. The 2013 Washington Auto Show not only symbolizes the brightest and boldest dreams of the auto industry but marks the show’s transformation over the years. The Washington Auto Show has not only become the largest public show in Washington, D.C., it’s also the premier address for showcasing the latest innovations in sustainable technologies and drawing the most influential leaders in the industry.

This year, hundreds of thousands of visitors, including many environmental and automotive visionaries, will explore the more than 700 new makes and models from over 42 manufacturers at the Walter E. Washington Convention Center.

The 2013 show marks a new era for Washington, D.C.’s largest public show. With its doubled time frame, from five to ten days, it’s an even bigger bonanza for area residents to enjoy the fully stocked, two-story convention center with an automotive showcase many describe as “new-car heaven.”

Many manufacturers come to Washington DC not only to display the best of what they will be offering in the new year but what they will be able offering in the future as well with prototypes.  You should also expect to see a good amount of Supercars and Exotics at the show too.

Also with the heavy political influence in Washington DC a lot of policy talk goes on.  If this is your cup of tea, you will be excited to go.

Probably most people will enjoy the celebrity appearances more.  Notable celebrities includes:

  • Karina Smirnoff – The Ukrainian professional ballroom dancer and winner of the 13th season of the well known TV show on ABC, “Dancing with the Stars,” will be at the Washington Auto Show on Tuesday evening, February 5th, 2013.
  • London Fletcher – Linebacker for the Washington Redskins will be in attendance to sign autographs Thursday  February 7th, 2013 from 6:30 – 8:30 pm.
  • Richard Rawlings – The owner of Gas Monkey Garage in Dallas, Texas. He is currently featured on the Discovery Channel’s”Fast N’ Loud” television show. In the show, Richard, along with his partner, Aaron Kaufmann, search for, buy, and restore classic cars for auction in Texas and other nearby states.  He will be at the show on February 5th, 2013 from 6:30 – 8:30 pm.
  • Randy Orton – World Wresting Entertainment (WWE) superstar.  Randy Orton was destined for a career in sports entertainment. After all, not every WWE Superstar can claim the title of “Youngest World Heavyweight Champion in WWE History”. Then again, Randy Orton is also one of the only third-generation Superstars in WWE history. The son of WWE Hall of Famer “Cowboy” Bob Orton, nephew of Barry “Barry O” Orton and grandson of “The Big O” Bob Orton, Randy comes from a distinctive bloodline.  He will be making an appearance at the show on February 6th, 2013 from 6:00 – 8:00 pm.
  • c “The Great White” – Another WWE star known to fans worldwide as “The Great White”, WWE Superstar Sheamus will be appearing Thursday, February 7th, 2013 from 6:00pm – 8:00pm.
  • Penelope Menchaca – host from Telemundo’s “12 Corazones” will be appearing Sunday, February 3 from 1:00pm – 3:00pm.
  • Johnny Lozada – From Univision's “Despierta America” will be appearing Sunday, February 3 from 1:00pm – 4:00pm.
  • Garrett ReismanA real NASA Astronaut will be signing autographs on the Toyota Live Stage on Sunday, February from 11:00am and 1:00pm

Other appearances will includes kids favorites such as PBS characters, Captain Planet, and Talking Friends.  US Army bands will also be in attendance at the show.  For a full list of appearances and times visit the website.

The Washington Auto Show is holding a Military Day on February 5th, 2013.  This means if you are a member of the military or a proud veteran who served our country you will be admitted to the Washington Auto Show for FREE!  All you have to do is show a valid military ID, or DD214 (discharge papers) and photo ID to get Free Admission to the wonderful auto show.

If you love cars and are in the Washington DC and surround area then you need to get yourself down to the 2013 Washington Auto Show.

Date: February 1st – 10th, 2013

Location: Walter E. Washington Convention Center 801 Mount Vernon Place, N.W. Washington, DC 20001

Tickets Prices: Adults $12, Children 6-12 $5, Kids 5 and under are FREE

Visit the website for more information: http://www.washingtonautoshow.com

*Join Adam’s Auto Advice on Facebook and Twitter.

Washington Auto Show Presents Cool Cars, Concepts, Green Cars, and Policy

Yesterday the 2012 Washington Auto Show opened to the public. Definitely a great event to go to if you are a car lover.

I attended the Public Policy day, the day before the Washing Auto Show opened (January 26th), and got to see all the offerings on hand before the massive crowds. I bet you are wondering what some of the highlights of the show were.

My personal favorites would have to be the Lotus Evora and the Lamborghini Aventador. Lamborghini's are just so amazing, sexy, powerful, over-the-top, etc. Basically everything you want in a supercar.  I imagine this car is on the wall of many young children's rooms across the country. I talked with the salesman from Euro MotorCars, Jamie Gershowitz, about the Evora for awhile. I commented on how the body from from a distance looked like a Tesla. This is because Lotus makes the body shells and chassis for the Tesla Roadster. He told me how fun there were to drive. If I was a dog… I would have been drooling. (Alright, maybe I was drooling just a little bit.)

Definitely the most interesting car there would have to go Freedom Behind The Wheel and the converted Nissan 240SX race car they had on display. All the controls are done with the hands. It is specifically built for soldiers who have lost their legs, but still want to participate in racing. Ryan Downey, who built the car, seems to have refined the controls and cars to be ideal for racing. Best part about their display was they had a race simulator setup to try out the controls. I that that was pretty awesome. I was told I did fairly well.    Unfortunately you can only see this car at auto shows for now.

There were a few concepts on hand as well. “Hybrid” is the keyword and along with “electric” or anything green at auto shows now, and the Washington Auto Show is no different. Toyota NS4 Hybrid and Volvo's XC60 Hybrid were on display. I hope Toyota builds the NS4 Hybrid, because I think it looks super slick. Another concept on display was the Audi E-Tron electric car. Audi is testing a fleet of them in Germany currently, but it no word on when Audi will be testing their electric cars in the US.

Fiat had a little area for doing test drives with the new Fiat 500.  It seemed a lot of press people and government officials were happy to not just look at cars, but actually drive one.  Especially inside the Washington Auto Show.  I thought this was a good idea, but is not necessarily going to make me buy a Fiat 500.  I love the original Fiat 500, but the new one just seems too much of chick car.

The day I attended Senator Jeff Merkley (Oregon)gave a speech and talked about what the Senate was doing to try to reduce our dependence on foreign oil. Honestly his speech was pretty boring, but I listened intently anyway.  As well Mark Reuss, President of General Motors North American operations (GM), gave a speech at the show.  I guess he came to make sure all the politicians were happy with the job he was doing and what GM is doing.  As well pat himself on the back about making GM number 1 again.  (Just so you know you have natural disasters to thank for that!)

Ray LaHood, the secretary of transportation, was in attendance as well. Unlike Senator Merkley and surprisingly Mark Reuss, he is a good public speaker.  He spoke in the Advanced Super Highway section of the hall, which featured electric cars, hybrids, and other green cars from many different automakers.   “This great auto show features some of the best cars in the world” said LaHood about the Washington Auto Show adding “In this hall, you can see what is possible.” In his speech he stressed the importance of the auto bailouts. He claimed the government's actions saved our whole economy and over 1 million jobs. I didn't agree with most of his statements, since I am against bailouts, but whatever.

If you love cars, and are in the DC metro area, I would definitely go checkout the Washington Auto Show.  It runs from January 27th – February 5th, 2012.

My Brooklyn Roadtrip – Part 1

Back in September I took a roadtrip with my brother Aaron to Brooklyn.  He needed to transport paintings for an art show he was part of.  It was very exciting for him as an artist since it was the first show he had in New-York.  He's how it the roadtrip went.

We got going late around 10:45am or so.  We rented a Uhaul the day before and got the paintings all packed and ready to go so we wouldn't have to worry about it in the morning.  Aaron and I decided instead of spending money on tolls on I-95, we would avoid them.  We set our GPS to “Avoid Tolls” and off we went.  The nice thing about not driving along I-95 is that it's a little more scenic.  You tend to see more interesting things, like a Hydro-Electric plant we passed along Route 1.  One side of the dam was extremely high due to all the rain.  The water was deep into the forest and we saw cops had blocked off a road leading down to that area.

Aaron was doing most of the driving, so my duties mainly were navigating (well making sure the GPS wasn't throwing us completely off track).  For the most part not taking 95 up to New-York was working out well.  Sure it was more slow going, but it gave us a chance to see little towns and places you would never have seen otherwise.  Like a Harley-Davidson dealership, antiques stores, cows, and the countryside.  Driving up 95 is kind of ugly, especially the Jersey turnpike.

Avoiding tolls surprising only took probably about 1 hour longer than if we had taken 95.  Finding Gowanus Ballroom, where Aaron was showing his paintings was fairly straightforward, and dropping off the paintings didn't take long either.  Gowanus Ballroom is an interesting place to show art.  It is a metal fabrication shop, but they also use the space to display art.  They move all the heavy metalworking material away for showing art, then back when they are done.

After we left Gowanus, we had to return the Uhaul truck.  We went to the Uhaul center, which was a few blocks away, and then the attendant pointed out we had not filled the tank.  I think it was a $50 surcharge to fill it, so we decided to find a gas station.  We found this run down on nearby, and to my delight there were a few cool and interesting cars there.

After we returned the Uhaul truck we headed to the train station to go into the New York City to catch the Bolt Bus back to Baltimore.  For $19 bucks 1-way, it is not a bad deal.  Only thing is we didn't realize how long we had to wait to catch the train into the city, and that it took us about 30 minutes once on the train to get where we needed to go.

When we emerged from the dirtiness of the NY subway system, we had a little trouble finding the stop on 7th and West 33rd.  Aaron kept trying to use his smartphone but it was not loading the map or something.  It kept getting closer to 6 and our bus was leaving at 6:15pm.  I was getting nervous and was saying “Let's just ask someone!”  after trying to ask several people on the street who ignored me with a New-York attitude, I went into a Gap store.  I asked a clerk folding clothes “Where is 7th and 33rd?” he pointed and said “That way!”  We got to 7th and 33rd no problem.  Smartphones are not all that!

When we got to the bus stop, it was in front of Sbarros.  I hadn't eaten lunch and went in to get 2 pieces of cheese pizza.  Aaron went to get some snacks at a convenience store close by.  I think at that point it was around 6:10 or slightly later.  There were tons of people waiting for different buses there.  So many that they were blocking the sidewalk, so the bus moved down a block.  Then we got on, and the bus left later than 6:15.

The buses are ok, but my expectations were higher from what I had heard.  I thought my seat was a bit uncomfortable.  I noticed that every other seat had a power plug, while I got stuck with a seat without one.  The nice thing was the bus had Wi-Fi, so I checked my email.  Then I attempted to sleep, but you are always in that half-awake mode on a bus.  We stopped once in Delaware, then continued on to Baltimore.  I think we got in around 11, and the bus drops you on Saint Pauls right near Penn Station.  So it is easy to get a cab to where you need to go.  We had a family member pick us up from the train station, then went home.

Need a Car Seat? Follow Me On Twitter!

Do you love Twitter?  Do you need a car seat for your small child? Then you are in luck!  The first Adam's Auto Advice Contest has officially begun.

I am looking to get over 1,000 Twitter Followers in 1 month.  If you help make that happen, then you could win a Graco Car Seat!

I won't just take into account Twitter followers, you also need to Retweet and Mention my blog.  Increase your chances of winning with a Facebook “Like”, Google+, Google Circle Add.  Hey if you like to use Digg, Delicious, StumpleUpon, etc. share my articles on there too.  Basically whoever shares my blog posts and articles the most will win.  Currently I am at 125 followers, so better get cracking.  Good Luck!

Graco Car Seat

If you want to win the Graco Car Seat, please email me with the subject “Win Graco Car Seat.”  I will then choose a winner who has clearly shared my contest the most.  If there are a few awesome people who have shared my content and shown a commitment to promoting Adam's Auto Advice, I will then randomly select the winner.  Car seat is rated for a small child up to 40 pounds.  Will ship to the lower 48.

 

 

Interview with Nick Miller Co-Founder & CEO of ParkingPanda – Part 2

This is Part 2 of my interview with Nick Miller Co-Founder and CEO of ParkingPanda.  Click here for Part 1 and Part 3.  If you did not see my article on ParkingPanda, check it out!

 

Adam: Is there a demographic you are trying to target?

Nick Miller, Co-Founder & CEO

Nick Miller: The thing is that it is parking space as opposed to Airbnb, which is apartments, makes it more broad and widespread. So anyone can use it. Early on we are targeting sports fans. You can use this at the Ravens Game.  I went to a Ravens game on Sunday and I used the service to get a parking spot by the Ravens Game. If I come back, I will do it again. If you have repeat users you have the potential for them to tell their friends and stuff like that. As we move into commuters, it becomes a more broad set of people. So it starts from hardcore fans and grows out from there.

A: I actually went to a concert at Rams Head Live the other night. One of my friends is a Bass Player. I went to the show with another friend and his car got towed. I was like “Oh S#$*! I should have used ParkingPanda!”

NM: Free parking is great, and it can be free or really cheap but you risk getting towed or ticketed. Particularly if you don't know the law. If it is 2 hour parking, in DC that what it is like. When I was down there for school, there is street parking but it's all only 1-2 hour parking. It is enforced strictly there. At the same time there are a lot of townhouses there and driveways and stuff like that and the people who live in them actually have permits to park on the streets. So they can park on the street for as long as they want and leave their driveways open to rent to you. So you don't need to deal with the trouble of the ticket or towing. They don't tow the cars down there, they boot the cars down there. So you just can't move it!

A: There are some other parking websites that are kind of similar but they are focused mainly on garages. Do you see yourself competing with them or are you offering a different thing?

NM: There are things like Craigslist, but there are a couple of sites like Parkwize. It will let you reserve in a garage before you ever go out. In some ways we think what we are offering is different. They offer you the ability to reserve a space and know exactly where you are going. We also offer the ability to save you money and to avoid the traffic associated with the garage or the parking lot, and the idea it is peer-to-peer so you are supporting your community. Someone can be renting you driveway when you are renting someone else's. So it is like back and forth community.

A: Do you see ParkingPanda really catching on? Maybe become like… Zipcar or something like that?

NM: We hope so! We think there is a big enough market and a big enough need for it. If you look around lately the sort of peer-to-peer community model, a company like Airbnb where you are renting out someone's room in their apartment as a hotel, that company is now worth over a billion dollars!

A: Oh wow! I did not know that!

NM: Then there are the car sharing services like ZipCar and RelayRides, where you are renting your neighbor's car. Those are catching on and starting to do really well, so right now is a great time. People really see the value of earning a little extra cash with their assets and with helping out the community in general. If people are willing to let you share their car, I feel like there are people who are certainly willing to let you use their driveway. You have to be confident in letting someone get behind the wheel of your car, but your driveway…there is a pretty low barrier to entry there.

A: You need to trust someone to use Airbnb, for staying at your place. I personally have never used Airbnb, but I have used Couchsurfing before. I am sure you have heard of that!

NM: I have Couchsurfed myself as well.

A: I actually told my mom about ParkingPanda and she was like, “We should use that!”

NM: That person may not be willing to Couchsurf, but your driveway is so much easier.

A: So you used to work for LivingSocial? Can you tell me about that?

NM: Back when I was in Georgetown I started at LivingSocial as an intern one summer, and I started there when it was about 15 people. It was still a Facebook application developer. I was there during the shift of developing Facebook applications into the local commerce and group deal space. They were already working toward the local commerce space, but I was there when the company grew very quickly. When I graduated from Georgetown, I almost stayed but I was planning on going to Grad School in NY. I left to go to grad school in NY, I ended up deciding I did not like the program I was going to go to, so I went to work for another start-up in NY.

A: What was the company?

NM: That was called GroupCommerce.

A: What do they do?

NM: They are similar to LivingSocial as they are in group commerce and local deal space. They are not consumer focused like LivingSocial is. They provide the technology for newspapers and publishers. For example the New-York Times has a group deal program, and GroupCommerce provides the infrastructure to support that. So I worked for them to develop that structure, then left to start ParkingPanda.

 

Click here for Part 1 and Part 3.

 

Interview with Nick Miller Co-Founder & CEO of ParkingPanda – Part 1

Here is an interview I did with Nick Miller, Co-Founder and CEO of ParkingPanda.com on October 4th, 2011.  This will give you an inside perspective on an internet startup and what it takes to get it started.  This is Part 1 of the interview, stay tuned for Part 2 and Part 3.  I thought it would make it easier to read and be more fun to post the interview in parts.  If you haven't already check out my article on ParkingPanda.

Nick Miller, Co-Founder & CEO

Nick Miller: We just got back from NY, we were in a tech accelerator up there. Now we are located right down the street here. (Canton in Starbucks).

Adam: Cool. How many employees do you have?

NM: It's just the two of us now. Two of us run it full time, myself and Adam [Zilberbaum]. We have contract help that is helping us and an intern that is helping us as well.

A: What was the flash of genius? Where did the idea come from?

NM: I have sort of experienced both sides of the problem. I went to Georgetown. When I was living in DC I actually at one point had a townhouse with a driveway.  So I was sitting there with an empty driveway and I wasn't doing anything with it. After I had moved out I was up here [Baltimore] at a Raven's game and there was a guy standing there with a cardboard sign, “Park Here $15 bucks” over at Federal Hill, way cheaper and way faster to do that, so I parked in the driveway. Having experienced both sides of the inefficiencies of parking, “There has got to be a better way to do exactly this!” Why can't I just put this guy's driveway online, and not drive around and hand this guy some cash! So it was actually having experienced both sides of it. It made it apparent this needed to be done.

A: Yeah I actually live right near the Hopkins campus, pretty close to the stadium. People park all up and down our street. A few years ago I actually kind of had the same idea. You should be able to just put this online or something. Hey, we do have spaces here!

NM: Once in awhile sometimes people post on Craigslist and it is so inefficient. You gotta sit around your house waiting for the guy to come with $10 dollars, so is it really worth it?  [With ParkingPanda] People don't even have to be there, you can set it up once and never do anything again.

A: What is your main market for the website? Who is using it?

NM: We are starting out targeting people going to events. Ravens football games.  We launched at the Grand Prix here in Baltimore. That was our first big event. Just because the demand around events is larger. It is really apparent really big. People see the value immediately around events. Ultimately we want to grow it away from events to people going to dinner in the city, or going shopping, and also long term for commuters as well. If you are gone from your space everyday, you're right by Hopkins, from work and you know there is an Hopkins employee that could pay you $50 or $75 a month instead $150 for a garage. They could just come rent the same space everyday.

A: Really ultimately anytime you need parking in a high-density area, this should be an option?

NM: Not that everyone is going to use it as opposed to a garage, but it should be an option. Hopefully a lower cost more efficient option.

A: So I am renting out my space and let's say I need it. How do you work out those types of issues?

NM: So there is a really easy calendar on the site. You can actually set when it's available and the amount of time. So if you know you are gone every Tuesday and it's free, you can make it available every Tuesday. You are home every Wednesday and Thursday you don't have to make it available. If you want to set it, as long as nobody has booked, you can change it at any point in time. You are going out of town for a month, you can make it available for a whole month or if you are sick and going to be home for the whole week you can take it off the market.

A: Is it a Google Calendar?

NM: We have our own calendar built in. Basically you can click or drag over dates. You can set when it's available and when it is not. It is one of the reasons we started off launching around events around daily parking, you rent it for the whole day. Basically what you need for the event, even if you are not there for the whole day. We reduce a lot of the complexities around “I get home around 5, what if someone is still in my driveway at 5:15?” Obviously we can deal with that, but it creates more and more complexities the more you do that. So we are starting off with dailies, but we will do monthly and hourly as well.

A: How many people are on the site currently?

NM: The first weekend at the Grand Prix we booked about 117 spaces over the course of the weekend. I think it was 117, it was just over 115. Now what we have been focusing on is we want to have a large inventory of spaces before we have tons of people who try to book spaces. If they come to book spaces and they aren't any there, it's useless! So we have close to 40 spaces in our inventory now. In any given time, not all those are available. In the middle of the week on Tuesday, you might only have 4-5. On a game day, for a Ravens Game, there will probably be 20. Some people list once a month, some people list their spaces every day. It really varies. We are really focused on filling up our inventory more and more. Once we have 100 spaces in our inventory, every day there will be a lot of value in different neighborhoods and different parts of the city.  Once we have that inventory it will be useful.

A: Do you see expanding to parking buses, rvs, or other vehicles?

NM: We think that the community model is lot more compelling than a lot of the other models. We have talked to parking garages before and ultimately we may do some work with parking garages and help people make relations with parking garages, but really that takes care of the issue of whether parking is available before you leave home. It doesn't help you avoid the traffic of the garage and it doesn't necessarily save you as much money. Plus you are not helping out your community making a little extra money as well. From a parking space owners side, in a bad economy it's a little more. Why not make a little extra cash?

A: Do you have a expected growth rate? Currently you are just in Baltimore, right? You want to move into other cities?

NM: We will be in DC soon. DC is the next city. We will probably roll out to DC in 2 months or less. In Baltimore we launched first we only have a certain number of inventory. In DC we won't launch until we have say 50 parking spaces there. That way as soon as we go live, we will launch around an event down there, as soon as we go live there will already by a lot inventory and spaces. We are already building the inventory in DC, so that when we go live there will be a lot of parking space available. After DC we will go to Philadelphia. We will focus on those close markets first, because it is a great way optimize what works, what doesn't. We can refine what we are doing. Once we really have if figured out in Baltimore, DC, and Philly. Then we will expand more Boston, Chicago, San Francisco. Start moving North, start moving West. Baltimore and DC and great markets. We really want to figure out that best way to do it and it's a great place to figure that out.

 

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