General Motors Co. announced Thursday its new personal mobility brand, Maven, which includes a new citywide car-sharing program in Ann Arbor featuring GM vehicles located at 21 parking spots across the city available for rent for as little as $6 an hour.
Maven, which combines GM’s car-sharing and ride-sharing services and team of 40 people, coupled this month with a $500 million investment into Lyft Inc. and purchasing the assets of ride-hailing company Sidecar Technologies Inc., show GM is serious and moving quickly about making an early mark in the mobility space as consumers’ driving and ownership patterns change.
“Our business is built around and has been for decades, (been) built around the concept of an owner-driver model,” GM President Dan Ammann said. “While we see that continuing to be a very large and very important part of our business far out into the future, we do see significant change in consumer behavior as people want to explore and take use of other utilization models around car-based transportation.”
Ammann said 5 million to 6 million people today globally use transportation sharing services; that’s projected to grow five-fold by the end of the decade. In short, car-sharing (where you drive yourself in a shared vehicle) and ride-sharing (where you are driven by someone else in a vehicle) are big business opportunities for the company, he said.
GM is hoping Maven — selected for its meaning as an expert or connoisseur — will differentiate from other car-sharing services by offering customers an easy-to-use, “highly personalized, on-demand mobility services.” That will include the ability for customers to access OnStar services, use 4G LTE wireless Internet and sync their smartphones with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto while they use a GM vehicle.
The Ann Arbor car-sharing program is open to more than 100,000 people and initially is concentrated around the University of Michigan campus. The service is available now to a small pilot group and will expand to the public within a few weeks, said Julia Steyn, GM’s vice president of urban mobility programs who is leading Maven.
Steyn said GM chose Ann Arbor in part because it has the University of Michigan, “which has a very sprawling and a large campus, which is hard to get around.”
She said the automaker plans to launch city car-sharing services in other major U.S. metro areas later in 2016, but she would not say what other cities are possibilities.
Through Maven, customers will be able to use a smartphone app to search and reserve a car by location or type. They can remotely start, heat or cool it.
GM said pricing includes insurance and fuel. A credit card is left in the vehicles for customers to refill a vehicle with gas when it falls below a quarter of a tank. For example, a Chevy Spark can be rented for $6 an hour, while a 2016 Chevy Tahoe runs $12 an hour or $84 a day.
Ammann would not say how much GM is investing in Maven or how the company plans to make money with low rental rates. But he emphasized the company is running it as a commercial operation and that vehicle sharing offers benefits such as being used more often than traditional ownership models where cars sit idle about 95 percent of the time.
“We see the emergence of car share/ride share in general as much more of an opportunity for General Motors then it is a threat,” he said.
Some analysts, however, have predicted car-sharing and ride-sharing growth over time will dramatically cut into vehicle sales, hurting automakers’ bottom lines.
GM also said it is expanding its previously named Let’s Drive NYC residential car-sharing service, announced in October, to more apartment buildings in New York. It will expand the service in Chicago in the first quarter this year through a partnership with Magellan Development Group. By the end of the year, GM said the service will be available to more than 5,000 people. The company also has about 10,000 users through its peer-to-peer car-sharing service, Car Unity, in Germany since mid-2015.
In November, GM filed an application with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office for “Maven,” describing it in part as “software for connecting vehicle drivers and passengers and for coordinating transportation services.”
Details on Maven are available at MavenDrive.com.