German luxury carmaker BMW AG is to launch a car-sharing service in Seattle, Washington, before rolling out the ReachNow program across the United States

The company announced the program for Seattle on Friday, revealing that it will be known as ReachNow. It is the latest instance in which car companies are expanding their operations from simply manufacturing vehicles to providing services related to cars, writes William Boston for The Wall Street Journal.

BMW Launches ReachNow Car-Sharing Service In U.S.

BMW joins car-sharing trend with ReachNow

The program will begin in Seattle later this year, part of a trend which is seeing increasing numbers of Americans renting cars on demand rather than buying their own.

“This is why we are supplementing our classic business model with additional services that make life on the road easier for people in big cities,” said Peter Schwarzenbauer, a member of BMW’s board, in a statement.

ReachNow uses the same basic principles as DriveNow, BMW’s European car-sharing service. Seattle will see 370 BMW and Mini vehicles on its streets as part of the program, 20% of which will be i3 battery-electric city cars.

Chauffeur and delivery services in the pipeline

ReachNow vehicles will be parked around the city, rather than stored in a central depot. This makes the service more convenient to use. BMW says that it will bring ReachNow to other U.S. cities in the future.

Cars will cost 49 cents per minute while driving and 30 cents per minute while parked. Users will have to pay a one-time registration fee of $29 when they sign up. The price is capped at $50 for 3 hours, $80 for 12 hours and $110 for 24 hours.

BMW also announced plans for a chauffeur service, ReachNow Black, which will launch later, as well as a delivery service that will take ReachNow vehicles to your home.

BMW has partnered with San Francisco-based startup RideCell on the program, which will be available via your smartphone.

United States car-sharing sector increasingly crowded

ReachNow is similar to Daimler’s Car2Go program in that users are charged by the minute and cars can be left within a designated “home area” around the city. Daimler has made its program available in Austin, New York and various other U.S. cities, using a fleet of Smart cars.

BMW previously ran a pilot version of ReachNow in San Francisco. The program, known as BMW Car Sharing, was shut down last year.

Both Ford and General Motors have recently launched car-sharing services as consumers move away from vehicle ownership. One of the original car-sharing services, Zipcar, recently launched per-minute and one-way service in Boston and Los Angeles, with more locations to follow.

Consumers who don’t need to use a car every day are increasingly tempted by the convenience of car-sharing programs. In urban areas across the United States there are now multiple options to choose from.

BMW is charging slightly more than competitors, but that is to be expected from a luxury carmaker. Obviously these schemes do not work for everyone, especially those that live in rural areas, but city dwellers can now have the convenience of a car without having to worry about storage or maintenance.

Carmakers have realized the importance of branching out into new areas of business and it looks as though the sector will continue to grow. If you want a premium car-sharing vehicle,keep your eye out for the latest developments from BMW and ReachNow.