After launching in California nine months ago, Fair has plans to roll out its flexible used-car ownership to major markets throughout the U.S. in the second half of the year.
At the forefront of that national launch will be former Tesla vice president Diarmuid O’Connell, who has been hired as Fair’s chief strategy officer.
So how will this expansion play out?
In a phone interview this week, O’Connell — who was Tesla’s VP of business development for 11 years — explained the three-pronged thought process Fair will use in prioritizing market launches.
First, he said, Fair will look at the largest volume car markets. Outside of the Golden State where the company is already established and headquartered, those would be Texas, California, the Northeast (centered on the New York metro area) and the Midwest (centered on the Chicago area), O’Connell said.
Then, it’s “an overlay of seasonality,” he said.
In other words, launching in the Chicago or New York areas in December would not make much sense weather-wise, so those market launches would be pulled ahead, he said.
The other consideration is the partnership Fair has with Uber.
In late January, Fair officially announced a deal to purchase the active lease portfolio, including existing contracts and vehicles, of Uber subsidiary Xchange Leasing.
This gave Uber drivers vehicle leasing options through Fair, allowing them flexible access to vehicles for 30 days or longer.
O’Connell said Fair is “prioritizing markets with high penetration of Uber drivers because we want to get that offering out to them, as quickly as possible.”
And that certainly helps with scalability, as a Fair spokesperson noted when the deal was announced.
“This deal is already having a significant positive impact on our plans to scale,” the spokesperson said via email. “Besides the thousands of Xchange Leasing vehicle leases we now own, we are already working to expand into several major markets to support demand from Uber drivers alongside the regular customers who would also be able to access Fair in those areas.”
Background with Tesla, State Department
O’Connell is no stranger to startups, having joined Tesla at a similar stage of launch as Fair is in now.
His tenure as VP of business development included management of commercial and OEM relationships, negotiating deals and global public policy leadership. He also as interim head of communications a few times.
Before his Tesla days, O'Connell was the State Department's chief of staff for political military affairs for then-Secretary of State Colin Powell.
Asked some of the takeaways from Powell and working in that role, O’Connell humbly emphasized that the job was a while back and that he didn’t spend much time working directly with the secretary.
But working in both the startup and national security affairs arena gives one experience in “working under pressure,” and hone the ability to “optimize crises, in order to change events in a positive way,” O’Connell said.
It’s a lesson in remaining even-keel under pressure, maintaining composure and focus and continuing to make progress.
“Basically, staying optimistic, and driving forward even when the odds seem stacked against you or even when you confront negative events,” O’Connell said. “We had plenty of crises at Tesla throughout my tenure there, but one of our great strengths, I think, was turning those challenges into opportunities to excel.”