General Motors is consolidating and expanding its car-sharing programs under a new brand, Maven, in its latest push to adapt to new business models that could threaten to undercut the way automakers have made money for decades.
As part of the effort, the Detroit automaker launched a city-based car-sharing service that allows residents to request the use of Chevrolet vehicles on the new Maven app for as little as $6 per hour, a la Zipcar. The program will begin with vehicles available at 21 parking spots in Ann Arbor, Mich.
Maven also incorporates and expands each of GM's car-sharing services. Those include its residential car-sharing program in New York City, which allows residents of a Times Square apartment building to rent cars by the hour, that will be expanded to a residential location in Chicago. It also includes its peer-to-peer sharing program in Germany, which allows Frankfurt and Berlin residents to rent out their vehicles by the hour.
Maven is the latest move by GM to confront growing competition from car-sharing services such as Zipcar and ride-sharing services such as Uber, which could fundamentally alter automakers' traditional business models, analysts say.
GM said on Tuesday that it followed up this month's $500 million investment in Uber rival Lyft by acquiring the assets of another ride-sharing company, Sidecar Technologies, which disclosed it was shutting down in December.
GM also unveiled the 2017 Chevrolet Bolt electric car, which comes with several features designed with ride-sharing in mind, at the Consumer Electronics Show this month.
Maven consolidates GM's car-sharing services but does not include any ride-sharing programs such as Lyft in which a customer is picked up by a driver, GM President Dan Ammann said Wednesday at a briefing for Maven's launch.
"(Maven) is all part of a very comprehensive approach to what we're doing as we see the world changing," Mr. Ammann said.
Mr. Ammann, who now sits on Lyft's board, said GM is adapting to rapidly shifting consumer demands and new technologies. GM expects 25 million customers to use ride-sharing services worldwide by 2020, up from between 5 and 6 million today.
Moving with customers
"We're following and moving with our customers and making sure that we're putting our company in a position to serve them," Mr. Ammann said.
He said GM sees its car-sharing push as a "long-term" investment, one that might not make money for the automaker at first but will in the future as the program expands.
GM chose Ann Arbor to introduce Maven's city-wide car-sharing program because the University of Michigan's large, sprawling campus can be difficult to get around, thus making car sharing potentially appealing to students and faculty, said Julia Steyn, GM's vice president of urban mobility programs.
Users in Ann Arbor who download the Maven app can select a vehicle or pick-up location at rates beginning at $6 per hour for the Chevrolet Volt or Spark and topping out at $12 per hour for the Chevrolet Tahoe. Fuel and insurance costs are covered and there is no membership fee, Ms. Steyn said.
The vehicles, which come equipped with Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, OnStar and 4G LTE, can be remotely started and heated or cooled via the app.
Ann Arbor users will also be able to contact Maven team members, including Ms. Steyn, via the messaging app WhatsApp to share ideas and thoughts about the service.
Ms. Steyn said the program will expand to other metropolitan areas over the course of the year, though she declined to say which cities or regions the company is considering.
GM aims to expand Maven's programs to new markets and to offer new services over time. The automaker is testing programs on its campuses in the U.S., China and Germany to see what could work in the future, including the use of autonomous Volts at its technical center in Warren, Mich.
The company did not disclose how much it is investing in Maven. GM said Maven is run by 40 employees within the company and those brought on from companies including Google, Zipcar and the recently-acquired Sidecar.
John Irwin is a reporter for Automotive News