American Honda Motor has purchased an 18.4% equity stake in Mobility Inc., a privately held company operating car-sharing programs under the brand name "Flexcar" in several metropolitan areas, the companies announced yesterday.

Headquartered in Seattle, Flexcar provides members with access to a fleet of vehicles located throughout a metropolitan area. Members reserve the vehicles for hourly use, with Flexcar covering the cost of the car, gas, parking, insurance and maintenance. Members pay only for the time they use the car. Flexcar serves more than 4,000 members in Washington D.C., Seattle, and Portland.

Honda has been involved in car sharing programs since the introduction of its Intelligent Community Vehicle System (ICVS) concept in 1994. ICVS is designed to supplement existing public transportation modes by sharing a limited number of cars among many users.

Honda has evaluated ICVS programs in the United States, Japan and most recently in Singapore. Based on the know-how acquired from its ICVS operations, Honda will provide technology and support for Flexcar's vehicle tracking and management system, in addition to part of the vehicle fleet.

"Flexcar and Honda share the same goals of reducing pollution and congestion, while meeting society's transportation needs," said Robert Bienenfeld, senior manager of product planning at American Honda. "Flexcar provides people with access to vehicles when they need it, yet encourages the use of mass transit and car pooling."