How Modo CEO Nathalie Baudoin is going to ‘turbo-charge’ the carshare

Nathalie Baudoin | BCBusiness

The Parisian-born CEO of Modo on instilling private-market urgency to the B.C. carshare pioneer

Nathalie Baudoin isn’t afraid of showing her quirky side.

The new CEO of Modo—Metro Vancouver’s original carshare—is describing how, at a previous job, she once superimposed her face onto a futuristic Jane Fonda in the cult movie Barbarella and portrayed her co-workers as Mad Men during a presentation.


1. “The cauliflower Najibs with a carrot, orange and ginger juice at Nuba (207 W. Hastings St., Vancouver, and three other locations;”

2. “For my Parisian hit of an afternoon pain au chocolat or croissant, I head to Faubourg (769 Hornby Street, Vancouver;”

3. “The five-course dinner—and anything to do with the spot-prawn season—is so good at Maenam (1938 West 4th Ave., Vancouver;” 

“It didn’t go very well,” she laughs in between bites of quiche at East Vancouver’s Le Marché St. George. “That was it for me. On paper the job looked great, but I had not asked the right questions about values, culture and fit. It was a big disaster.”

That’s why the Parisian is especially excited about having left behind her corporate communications job at a business school in France to join the “wonderful” culture of Modo, returning to the city where she spent five years as chief marketing officer at Mountain Equipment Co-op. “I missed nature,” says the 56-year-old mountaineer and skier. “As you get older, you need it more.”

Baudoin’s position with MEC had come about as a result of her work with California clothing-and-gear company Patagonia, which, as marketing and communications director, she helped launch into Europe in the ’90s. Attracted by the firm’s job posting (“No stockings? No tie? No high heels? No need for this job”), she experienced a pioneering approach to business, including corporate responsibility, under the tutelage of founder Yvon Chouinard.

“It was totally life-changing,” she says of her 11 years with Patagonia. “I saw how he wanted to change the world of business, and the way I view business today is through his prism. I always like to think about the greater good—I’m still idealistic.”

At Modo, Baudoin’s drive now is to “educate, engage, excite people about carsharing” and double membership, currently at 11,000, over the next three years. Modo is also expanding its contracts with municipal governments in Surrey and Vancouver, and merging with Victoria Car Share.

While Modo remains a grassroots group (it started as the Co-operative Auto Network in 1997), Baudoin feels people are receptive to her instilling a bit of private-market “urgency” given the current competitive landscape, which is dominated by Car2Go (owned by Daimler/Mercedes, it has 700 vehicles and 67,000 local members) and, to a lesser extent, Zipcar (owned by Avis, it has 160 local vehicles).

“It’s the natural, co-op rhythm—I’m just going to turbo-charge it. Much has changed since 1997; I don’t want to alienate old members, but at the same time we need to bring in new members and bring them in faster,” she says of Modo, which last year saw net annual earnings per vehicle rise to $1,710, up from a $864 per-vehicle deficit in 2009. “We are not-for-profit, but we are not for loss.”

She sees bike and ride shares in the future, and there are plans to boost the fleet from 345 cars to 400 in 2015. While showing smartphone images of recent test-drives including a Tesla (“so cool”), she confesses to having developed a genuine passion for cars. “We are a car company and, yes, we’re for people who go from A to B, but there’s also exhilaration when I open the convertible,” says the driver of a Volvo V50.

Away from the wheel, the Point Grey resident still enjoys keeping fit, including the Grouse Grind. “I’m active,” says the mother of two grown sons, both at McGill University (she studied languages at Paris’s Sorbonne), “but nothing like before.”

Not that Baudoin has chosen a quieter working role. “I guess I wanted to feel young again.”