Technology

General Motors Announces Car-Sharing Service

This Thursday automaker General Motors announced a new car-sharing service as the company strives to stay relevant in a difficult sector.

The automotive landscape is shifting rapidly and the new service, known as Maven, marks another attempt to stay ahead of competitors. Under the scheme General Motors will offer customers access to vehicles that are located around a given city.

General Motors Announces Car-Sharing Service

General Motors Maven goes up against Zipcar and Car2Go

Other companies such as Zipcar and Car2Go offer similar services, and Maven will be entering a tough market. General Motors customers can reserve and unlock vehicles using a smartphone app, and each car will feature on-board WiFi, satellite radio and smartphone-syncing software.

Ann Arbor, Michigan, will be the first city in the roll-out, and it is located close to General Motor’s hometown of Detroit. Car-sharing programs in New York and Chicago will also either be expanded or launched through Maven, and other projects will be undertaken in the U.S. and abroad.

General Motors will face tough competition from existing schemes such as Zipcar, which was the first to popularize the car-sharing idea. The company sold out to Avis Budget Group in 2013 after it struggled to maintain profits.

Automakers strive to become “mobility companies”

One big advantage for Maven is that its costs will be lower thanks to its ties to General Motors. Another is that the idea of car-sharing has become normalized in the minds of consumers.

General Motors appears to be addressing changing attitudes towards car ownership in the U.S., where the importance of buying your own vehicle is decreasing. A University of Michigan study found that the number of licensed drivers aged 25 and under has seen a significant decrease.

This shift in attitudes towards using public transport or ride hailing services like Uber is a worry for automakers, who have been sustained by a traditional desire for one or more cars per household. General Motors and its competitors are also presumably worried the advent of self-driving technology, which could seriously disrupt the automotive industry.

Maven can be seen as an insurance policy in a shifting landscape, and comes soon after General Motors invested $500 million in ride hailing company Lyft and bought technology from the now defunct Sidecar. Other automakers such as Ford Motor Company have also been taking similar steps to become “mobility companies” rather than just manufacturers.