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Zipcar fuels up for an IPO

June 1, 2010 8:40 AM PDT | by Caroline McCarthy

Car-sharing service Zipcar announced Tuesday that it has filed for an initial public offering estimated at $75 million; the move is designed to pay off debt as the venture-backed Cambridge, Mass.-based company, which is not profitable, aims to expand its footprint in cities and college campuses in the U.S., Canada, and the U.K.

A regulatory filing explains that Zipcar plans to trade on the Nasdaq Global Market under the symbol “ZIP.”

Zipcar, which courts a young, urban, and tech-savvy audience through a notable Facebook and Twitter presence as well as an iPhone app with a horn-honking button. Its selection of cars skew toward city-friendly hybrids which members can rent by the hour, and gas and insurance costs are included.

In the regulatory filing, Zipcar warns, “We have a history of losses, and we may be unable to achieve or sustain profitability.”

Reviews of the Zipcar service aren’t perfect (my colleague Scott Stein has a few horror stories) and competitors in the car-sharing space keep popping up on behalf of both start-ups and established car rental companies. But Zipcar has remained the leader in the space, acquiring smaller U.S. rival Flexcar and U.K. service Streetcar along the way. It now counts about 400,000 people among its membership ranks.