May 24, 2006 Back in 1987 a group of 30 Swiss neighbours formed a co-operative to buy two cars, and car sharing was born. The concept has spread and mutated and now operates in 600 cities across the world with a 150,000 members and growing fast.

No doubt many informal car sharing arrangements predated the Swiss formalisation of the concept, but when an idea’s time has come, there seems no stopping it. Partial ownership works best for people requiring a car only some of the time and is much more efficient financially than keeping one’s own car. With just a few members, any club can offer the convenience of a car when you need really need it, with a reduced cost for the miles that you do when you take account of the purchase price, depreciation and insurance.

Then there’s the added inconvenience and upkeep costs – paying to park it, getting it serviced and keeping it running in fine fettle. If you’re cash rich and time poor, these aspects can be ultimately of greater personal cost as you only get 24 hours in a day no matter how wealthy you are.

Nearly all car sharing clubs are focussed on reducing the group environmental impact, but a more recent variant has seen luxury car sharing clubs appear such as Club Ascari, Exotic Carshare, Classic Car Club (and the American franchisee, Classic Car Club Manhattan), Luxshare Auto Club, and Club Sportiva.

Ex-F1-Champ Damon Hill started his own P1 club and F1 newbie Scott Smart has a similar club. Business models and fees vary but usually involve a ritzy clubhouse, access to an array of fine automobilia and a fixed fee that compares well to the cost of ownership of just one of the beauties, let alone an entire harem.

Now a group of Australian entrepreneurs has taken the fractional ownership model one step further by combining holiday homes, luxury boats and luxury cars into one package. AUD$18,000 gets you enough points to spend 45 peak days in the car of your choice, or the boat of your choice, or the holidays home of your choice – going off-peak might squeeze 75 days a year and corporates can join to use the points as employee rewards, team-building weekends, as venues for lavish parties with a difference.

Australia’s (any takers on the world’s?) first luxury lifestyle club, has launched in Sydney offering its members access to a fleet of the world’s finest high performance cars and watercraft, a portfolio of holiday homes and a range of events and experiences all under one membership.

Limited Edition members get the keys to a host of prestige vehicles, watercraft and holiday homes via ‘The Collection’, from a brand new Lamborghini Gallardo to a Regal 3560 Power Cruiser to a Hunter Valley (gorgeous Australian wine region) Country House. The total value of ‘The Collection’ exceeds nine million dollars and the selection is regularly updated to suit members’ tastes and desires.

Limited Edition Managing Director, Shane van den Barselaar, says the club was formed for those time poor, but cash rich Australians who work hard but may not always have the time to enjoy the fruits of their labour.

“There are hundreds of cars and boats in Australia that are only being used sporadically and then sold with only a few thousand kilometres or a few hours on the clock for a lot less than the owner paid for it,” says Barselaar “The demand for a more financially astute way to enjoy a luxury lifestyle has never been stronger.”

Limited Edition members avoid the anxieties traditionally associated with ownership of a high performance vehicle or luxury boats such as depreciation, insurance, maintenance, taxes and storage.

“The depreciation on any car or boat in ‘The Collection’ is considerably more than the cost of an annual membership fee,” says Barselaar.

Limited Edition will invite only 300 members to join the club with applications opening on July 1, 2006 but already 45 have put their money down before any publicity has begun and the club plans for medium term expansion to Melbourne, Gold Coast, Perth and longer term to Shanghai, Hong Kong and Singapore and is seeking reciprocal rights arrangements with any car or boat or real estate clubs along similar lines.

Franchising is also on the cards as the group develops profile and detailed expertise in the area. There are two levels of membership, Platinum and Gold offering different degrees of access to ‘The Collection’. Gold members pay an initial joining fee of $AUD500 and there is no joining fee for Platinum members. Thereafter, members pay an annual membership fee of AUD$12,000 - AUD$18,000 respectively.

Limited Edition members are given annual points at the start of their membership year which may then be exchanged against usage of the Collection Items and the number of points deducted for the use of an item depends upon the Collection Item’s group number, the season and the day of the week the booking is made for.

Shane can be emailed here.

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