While Maven's ambitions are big, GM is starting out pretty
small. In Chicago, consumers can use the Maven app to reserve one
of 30 GM vehicles stationed at 15 sites. By comparison, Zipcar has
600 vehicles in more than 300 locations in Chicago, where it will
celebrate its 10th anniversary this summer, according to a Zipcar
spokeswoman. "Competition isn't new to Zipcar and there is a reason
we've led the car-sharing industry in Chicago for nearly a decade,"
Advertising for Maven is led by an agency team from the Dentsu
Aegis network, Mr. Razzacki said. Ads will be digitally focused,
including video advertising on YouTube, he said. Maven will also
look to connect with local events, such as music festivals. "We've
really tried to craft Maven to be an experience brand and a
lifestyle brand," he said. The brand recently produced a video
featuring food bloggers and photographers who used Maven cars to
partake in a cooking clinic in the outskirts of Chicago hosted by
Chicago chef Erling Wu Bower.
Maven is seeking an advantage by trying to offer an easy-to-use,
friction-free experience. On a recent day, it took less than four
minutes to get approved as a new user after filling out a quick
form on the mobile app. Vehicle availability is displayed in the
app, along with rates, which start out at $8 an hour for a car like
a Malibu, including insurance and fuel, in Chicago. Cadillacs were
going for $14 an hour on Thursday. Once at the vehicle site,
drivers push a button on the app to unlock the doors -- no separate
key card is needed. You can even push a button for remote start or
to sound the horn to make finding the car easier. For now, there is
no membership fee.
Mr. Razzacki picked me up in the black Caddy on Thursday and we
searched for a Volt using the Maven app. It was .8 miles away in a
parking garage that was home to two other Maven cars, a blue Cruze
and white Cadillac ATS. We exited the parking garage without having
to use a parking pass -- it was integrated on the car's windshield
-- and drove back out into the bustling city traffic.
The Maven cars come equipped with Apple CarPlay and Android
Auto. They are also equipped with GM's OnStar system. Mr. Razzacki
pushed the OnStar button in the Volt and was connected with an
adviser who gave him directions to a restaurant he wanted to visit
for lunch later. We dropped the Volt off about a half-hour later
and pushed a button on the app to check it in and lock it, never
once using a key.
The service we used is called Maven City. GM has also brought
the "Maven+" service to Chicago that gives exclusive access to
Maven vehicles to residents of a luxury apartment building called
Aqua. Maven+ will soon be launched at a building in Washington,
D.C., with Maven City launching there by the end of June. Maven
City and Maven+ will enter Boston this summer.
Other car companies experimenting with car-sharing include BMW,
which in April relaunched its service with a brand called ReachNow in Seattle with 370
cars, which are available in curbside parking spots rather than
The automaker had earlier shut down the program in San Francisco
because of a lack of help from city government,
according to recent Automotive News report. Daimler also runs a
car-sharing program called Car2Go.
In a report published in February, Boston Consulting Group
stated that "car sharing will certainly bring about changes in
urban driving, driver behavior, and the business models of
[automakers] and new entrants. It will expose new revenue pools and
become increasingly relevant to a cohort of mostly younger
drivers." But "it is not, however, a true game changer," the report
states. "It will not do to the automotive business what iTunes did
The report calculated the number of vehicles that will be
purchased for car-sharing fleets in 2021 and the "share of forgone
private purchases those sales will offset." The bottom line: Car
sharing will cost automakers approximately 550,000 units in
worldwide vehicle annual sales that year. As Automotive News
recently pointed out, that would represent less than 1% of the
89 million light-duty vehicles automakers are expected to sell
worldwide this year, according to German mega-supplier Continental
Boston Consulting Group stated that while car sharing won't
spark widespread change, autonomous vehicles will. Self-driving
cars will erase "the distinction between car sharing and ride
sharing," while "offering users a significant edge in the total
cost of ownership," according to the report. But because
self-driving cars "will not arrive on the market in force until
2027, there is still ample time for the car-sharing market to
evolve and for players to prepare for a period of accelerating
One futuristic vision is that car-sharing services will use
autonomous vehicles. "Today, you reserve a Zipcar and pick it up;
tomorrow, you reserve it and it picks you up," Zipcar president
Kaye Cheille stated in a corporate blog post called
"The Future of Car Sharing With Autonomous Wheels."
In January, General Motors and Lyft announced a long-term
strategic alliance to "create an integrated network of on-demand
autonomous vehicles in the U.S." It includes
GM investing $500 million in Lyft.
Maven has partnered with Lyft in Chicago to offer Lyft service
drivers the use of Chevrolet Equinox crossovers for $99 a week.
That program will expand to other markets including Boston,
Baltimore and D.C. by the end of the year.
One of Mr. Razzacki's tasks is to chart Maven's future. He will
soon transition away from his marketing lead role to overseeing
advanced solutions, or what he called "Maven 2.0." His experience
includes working for Google from 2010 through 2013, with his last
role being a product marketing manager, according to his LinkedIn
profile. Before coming to GM he was chief product officer at
getambassador.com, which makes automated referral marketing
While Maven launched with car sharing, it might one day add
other services such as intelligent assistant apps, he suggested.
The work is occurring at Maven's offices, which are housed at GM's
Technical Center in Warren, Mich., as well as in San Francisco.
More than 50 people work for Maven, according to GM.
Notably, the brand name Maven does not include a reference to
GM, or even the automaker's signature white-and-blue colors. "This
allows us to really approach it from a blank slate and create a
whole new vision for what this company can be," Mr. Razzacki said.
The brand logo features the word Maven with the A made to resemble
a navigation arrow pointing forward, he said. The colors black,
white and deep yellow were inspired by streetlines on black
"Maven is a little different from any of our vehicle brands in
that it is trying to solve a problem for our customers. The word
maven actually means an expert or a connoisseur," Mr. Razzacki
said. So "it made sense to be people's Maven and to help them get
from point A to point B as easily as possible."