GM’s Maven Tries Letting Owners Share Their Cars

GM will let some GM car owners rent out their own vehicles through the company’s Maven car-sharing service, expanding the scope of a business that so far has been fleet-based.

Maven’s P2P service, launched on July 24 as a beta test in Chicago; Detroit; and Ann Arbor, Michigan, is the latest move by a major automaker to branch out from selling cars to renting mobility.

Reports of the death of car ownership are greatly exaggerated, but car companies are trying to find their place in the growing universe of Internet-enabled alternatives such as ride-hailing, shuttles and shared bikes and scooters. GM launched Maven in 2016 using a fleet of company-owned vehicles and already offers variants for students, city dwellers and ride-hail drivers.

The new service could help GM reach consumers who otherwise couldn’t afford a new car. But it also creates a new revenue stream for the company that may grow if more people turn to car sharing.

Owners of most 2015 or newer Chevrolet, Buick, GMC and Cadillac models will be able to rent out their vehicles to Maven members. They can rent by the hour, day, week or month and set their own prices, with Maven providing suggested rates based on model, location and other factors. The owner gets to keep 60% of what renters pay.

On its site, the company gives some income examples, ranging from $533 per month for renting a 2018 Chevrolet Cruze for a total of seven days, to $19,278 per year for renting out a 2016 Camaro for 12 weeks. (It’ll have to be one with an automatic, because cars with manual transmissions are excluded.)

Owners block out the times they need the car and make it available the rest of the time. Renters who have reserved a car can unlock it using the Maven smartphone app, and most current GM models have pushbutton starts so no key is necessary. For cars that require a key for the ignition, Maven will install a lockbox in the vehicle and share the combination with the renter.

Maven evidently has thought through many details of the peer-to-peer service, judging from its extensive FAQ. Each car is covered by a $1 million Maven insurance policy. Pets and smoking aren’t allowed. Renters are responsible for returning the car with the same amount of gas they left with and can be charged a fee if there is less than a quarter of a tank left. The company defines normal wear on the car down to the maximum length of a scratch or tear so owners can report excessive damage.

Several carmakers are taking mobility services for a spin, with each trying a different approach. Last week, BMW added a professionally driven ride-hailing service to ReachNow, its fleet-based car-sharing service. Daimler is working with Car2Go. In 2015, Ford Credit ran a pilot of a car-sharing service through partner companies in the UK and US, but it never went commercial. It has launched a car subscription service called Canvas in Los Angeles and San Francisco.

Peer-to-peer car sharing has been around for several years through startups such as Car2Go and Getaround. Car sharing as a whole will grow into an $11 billion market by 2024, Global Market Insights forecast in a recent report. But with a global fleet of just under 1 million vehicles in 2017, it’s still dwarfed by car sales, which hit 94.5 million units last year.

— Stephen Lawson is a freelance writer based in San Francisco. Follow him on Twitter @sdlawsonmedia.

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