Over the past several decades, Detroit-based automakers have rightly been accused of regularly burying their heads in the sand and ignoring changes in the marketplace that would upend their business. The latest announcement from General Motors (GM) shows that is no longer the case, as the biggest American automaker has launched a carsharing service in Ann Arbor, Michigan that also leverages its established OnStar telematics service.
Navigant Research’s Carsharing Programs report projects that such services will have 23.4 million members globally by 2024, potentially eating into individual vehicle sales. Ford has had a longstanding relationship with ZipCar, BMW is behind the DriveNow program, and Daimler provides vehicles to Car2Go.
Maven, the new service from GM is the latest in a string of moves by the automaker including a $500 million investment in Lyft and the purchase of assets, including intellectual property from the defunct SideCar ride-hailing service. While SideCar shuttered its service at the end of 2015 after failing to gain marketplace traction against larger rivals Uber and Lyft, many of its staff will join GM’s efforts, and the automaker will access to a 2002 patent on determining an efficient transportation route and requesting rides from a mobile device. SideCar founder Sunil Paul declined to use the patent against competitors, and it’s not clear if GM will be able to sue. More likely GM will use the patent defensively if Uber tries to corner the market.
Maven will have the advantage of GM’s longstanding OnStar system, which launched 20 years ago as the first commercial cellular-based telematics service. Many of the same features that OnStar subscribers get through the RemoteLink smartphone app will add to the convenience of using Maven. Using the Maven app, subscribers can reserve and locate available vehicles and remotely start them up to 8 minutes prior to a reservation.
The fleet consists of the four Chevrolet models including the Spark, Volt, Malibu, and Tahoe, allowing users to select the vehicle that best meets their needs on any given day. Rental rates start at $6 per hour for a Volt or Spark to $12 for the Tahoe.
For now, Maven users will have to go where the vehicles are parked, 11 locations around downtown Ann Arbor and the University of Michigan north campus. However, as GM continues to develop its autonomous vehicle technology and the autonomous hailing service it announced with Lyft at CES, Maven seems likely to morph into this type of service. It’s probably not a coincidence that GM chose to launch Maven at a location directly adjacent to the Mcity autonomous and connected vehicle test facility.
With GM and Ford both extensively dabbling in carsharing and ride-hailing services, Fiat Chrysler is the only Detroit automaker that hasn’t publicly announced any plans in this space, but it’s likely only a matter of time before they jump in as well. With a 30-mile electric driving range, the Chrysler Pacifica plug-in hybrid minivan that was revealed at the recent North American International Auto Show would make an excellent platform for mobility as a service.