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Car and Driver: That’s So Maven! GM Debuts New Car-Sharing Service


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Because it’s now fashionable for automakers to act like startups—in which they’re not merely manufacturing cars but instead are “building brand experiences,” “creating transportation solutions,” or, in this case, “redefining the future of personal mobility”—General Motors has just launched its own version of Zipcar, and it’s called Maven.


Maven is essentially a one-make rental shop owned and operated by GM, designed to attract younger, city-dwelling, car-free people into its cars. GM wants to earn some money, too, more than the failed Sidecar, which GM purchased in pieces a few days earlier. Other than being a division of GM, there’s nothing unique about Maven. A location-sensing smartphone app reserves nearby cars for between one and 24 hours, the OnStar service unlocks them, and you drive off for up to 180 miles. Fuel is included, and you’ve got to return the car to the exact same space at the pre-appointed time. Rates vary from $6 per hour (for a Chevrolet Spark or Volt) up to $12 for a Tahoe. A Malibu, the middle choice, is $8. Daily rates range from $42 to $84, and all cars come with built-in 4G LTE wireless connections because, well, of course they do.




So far, all 21 Maven vehicles are parked on the University of Michigan campus in Ann Arbor. By the end of March, GM says it will expand Maven to Chicago and rework its New York City car-sharing pilot, Let’s Drive NYC, to bring it under the Maven umbrella. More as-yet-unidentified cities are said to be on the roster. Later, Maven will spread like meningitis to other college campuses in the U.S., Germany, and China.


Automaker rental fleets are steadily growing. Remember that GM also invested a half-billion dollars in ride-sharing service Lyft two weeks earlier, with the far-away goal to build fleets of self-driving taxis. In April, Audi opened a small fleet in San Francisco (which includes the R8), and a month later, Ford began one-way car-sharing in London and then partnered with private-owner car-sharing service Getaround in a few U.S. cities. Daimler’s Car2Go division has had Smart Fortwo microcars buzzing around since 2008 and now operates in 11 U.S. cities. All this is not just to appear cool and hip. Automakers know that fleet sales can erode residual values when rental-car companies dump lots of cars onto the market at the same time, so controlling a portion of those vehicles is a worthy endeavor.


And selling cars at dealerships, right after automakers hit an all-time record? That’s so 2015.


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