General Motors Is Launching a New Car-Sharing Service
General Motors announced Thursday the creation of a new car-sharing service, the automaker#8217s latest move to stay ahead of the curve in a rapidly shifting automotive landscape.
The service, called Maven, will offer customers access to vehicles waiting to be picked up around a given city, similarly to existing platforms like Zipcar and Car2Go. Drivers can reserve and unlock Maven cars with a smartphone app. The vehicles will be decked out with high-tech features, like wireless hotspots, OnStar support and the latest smartphone-syncing software from Apple and Google.
Maven#8217s car-sharing program will initially roll out in Ann Arbor, Michigan, close to GM#8217s home in Detroit. Through Maven, General Motors will also be either expanding or launching new residential car-sharing programs in Chicago and New York City, along with other experiments in the U.S. and abroad.
GM#8217s Maven will be entering a tough business. Zipcar, which popularized the car-sharing idea in cities and on college campuses, sold itself to Avis Budget Group in 2013 after it had trouble keeping profits up. However, Maven will have an advantage in that costs will presumably be lower given its ties to an automaker. And consumers are likely more comfortable with car-sharing programs today than they were three years ago.
General Motors#8217 Vice President of Urban Mobility Julia Steyn is optimistic about her company#8217s chances. #8220Maven goes above and beyond a typical rental company,#8221 she says, highlighting the cars#8217 technology as a standout feature. #8220In the winter, things like remote start and remote heating . . . that#8217s the experience that feels like it#8217s your own vehicle.#8221
Maven can best be understood as GM#8217s response to changing American attitudes about cars. Young Americans in particular are less likely than ever to view car ownership as the coming-of-age rite it has long been considered. A recent study out of the University of Michigan found a notable drop in the number of licensed drivers 25 years old and younger. In part, that#8217s likely a result of young professionals seeking economic opportunities in large cities, where relying on public transportation and on-demand driving services like Uber is considered cheaper and more convenient than owning and maintaining a vehicle.
That shift in thinking is a threat to automakers, who have long benefitted from suburban Americans#8217 desire for one or more cars per household. Still more uncertainty comes from self-driving technology, which stands to upend the automotive industry. For GM, offering a car-sharing service is a bulwark against these rapid shifts in the automotive business.
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