Car ownership ain’t what it used to be. Despite more people buying cars than ever before, the big auto companies are experimenting with alternate ownership models under the assumption that their sales will drop in the future. The most recent example is General Motors, which announced Tuesday a new peer-to-peer car-sharing service, in which owners of GM-branded vehicles would rent their cars to other people.
The service, which will be operated under the automaker’s two-year-old Maven car-sharing company, has been in works for months. But it will be limited at first: car owners who live in Chicago, Detroit, and Ann Arbor, Michigan, can list and rent out their own personal cars when they aren’t using them, much like Airbnb users do with their homes and apartments.
Car owners will keep 60 percent of the fee charged through Maven’s platform, the company says, and the rate will depend on the type of car that’s being rented. Eligible name plates include Chevrolet, Buick, GMC, and Cadillac. Maven recommends charging $7.25/hour and $80/day for Chevy Cruzes, $14.50/hour and $145/day for GMC Sierras, and $22.50/hour and $225/day for Chevy Camaros. Maven is also offering a $150 monthly bonus to those users who list their vehicle for 50 percent of the month after the first three months.
Of course, you can only use Maven’s new service if you own a GM vehicle, while other services like Turo and Getaround are brand agnostic. But there are advantages to a closed marketplace like Maven’s. Through the the company’s platform, owners can rent their vehicles to other people using GM’s keyless access technology. Drivers will be able to unlock and start the cars using an app. That means skipping inconvenient meet-ups to exchange keys. Maven says it will also cover up to $1 million in liability insurance, including collision coverage.
This isn’t Maven’s first forray into new products and services. The company has a side business called Maven Gig, through which it lends vehicles to people who want to earn money driving for ride-hail companies like Uber or Lyft, or delivery services like Postmates and Instacart. It also has a monthly rental service called Maven Reserve.
A peer-to-peer service isn’t an obvious choice for GM. The automaker’s strengths — its manufacturing acumen, its after-market division, and its network of dealerships — aren’t necessarily applicable in this space.
To make a successful Airbnb-for-cars, GM will need a trustworthy tech platform on which people will feel comfortable listing their cars, and from which customers will feel secure renting these vehicles. Some customers who’ve used Maven have complained that the user experience can be confusing, while the app can be a bit slow. Other users have found the cars available on Maven to be dirty. The company’s service in San Francisco has 1.5 stars on Yelp based on 39 reviews.
It is likely GM is intrigued by the commercial prospects. Turo, which claims about 4 million users in more than 5,000 cities in North America and Europe, says it appeals to travelers because they can find short-term car rentals that are cheaper than those of its corporate peers. The company has raised money from Daimler AG and is currently valued at $700 million. Getaround raised $45 million last April, with Toyota among the companies buying in.