As part of an ongoing expansion, the General Motors service brand is examining a new car-sharing service for fleet and business owners of GM cars and trucks, including dealerships potentially putting vehicles into on-location Maven stations.
Maven, which launched as an app-based short-term rental service for GM in 2016, started a pilot program last year with Suburban Chevrolet of Ann Arbor in Michigan. The dealership owns the five loaner service vehicles and shares revenue with the company when they are used by Maven users.
The dealership has had “fairly reasonable success” with the program by promoting it for customers as an alternative to sitting in the waiting room, according to General Manager Mike Mosser.
“It’s a great opportunity to market to our customers that we have a 24-hour service drop-off availability,” he told Automotive News, and a tool to attract younger customers to GM vehicles and the dealer lot.
Maven’s dealership program represents one more step toward what Maven CEO Julia Steyn has called a “holistic mobility platform,” or a one-stop shop for emerging mobility services such as car sharing, ride hailing and even peer-to-peer car sharing.
Maven officials declined to comment on any future programs, including potentially expanding the dealership program, but said the brand is analyzing and testing “a whole lot” of programs for future uses in the so-called shared economy.
“We really are building out a system where automotive assets can be owned by a variety of different owners … and that those automotive assets can be accessed via an app by a variety of different demand pools, or uses,” Peter Kosak, GM executive director of urban mobility, said in an interview from Maven’s newly renovated global headquarters at GM’s historic Warren Technical Center near Detroit.
Peer to peer
Adding peer-to-peer sharing — where users pay to borrow an idle vehicle from an individual owner — would arguably cause the most industry disruption, as Maven currently offers thousands of vehicles through its consumer car-sharing app and Maven Gig,which lends vehicles to drivers of ride-hailing and delivery services.
Peer-to-peer services are already available from small startups such as Getaround and Turo. GM has some experience with peer-to-peer operations through its recently sold Opel brand in Europe, where thousands of users signed up to rent out their vehicles through a program called CarUnity. If such a program were adopted widely by GM, the peer-to-peer cars being rented could be fully insured through the company, as Maven cars are now, and revenue from the rental could be shared by the company and vehicle’s owner, helping to mitigate the cost of ownership.
A successful expansion of peer-to-peer services could vault Maven from niche business to an integral part of GM’s customer base, just as OnStar has gone from an in-vehicle feature to the foundation of the company’s connected car strategy.
“I think it’s a great idea for GM to try a lot of different angles for this,” said Michelle Krebs, a senior analyst with Autotrader. “GM is using Maven as an umbrella to conduct experiments in the sharing economy to test out what works and what business models will work to create revenue.”
For now, Maven is operating as a startup within GM, officials say. That means it faces challenges of the historically slow-moving Detroit auto industry as well as the turbulence of a new Silicon Valley company, but it has freedom and resources to make changes and improvements quickly.
Since Maven’s launch in 2016, the company’s app and services have faced some criticism from users and industry onlookers who questioned the long-term opportunities, as the rise of ride-hailing services has diminished interest in car sharing.
Megan Stooke, chief marketing officer of Maven, doesn’t see the brand’s growing pains as a severe problem, as she may have in previous roles with other traditional GM brands such as Chevrolet and Australia’s Holden.
“In terms of new-car marketing, it’s all about flawless launches, and you are working to that,” she said. “Here, it’s all about constant evolution.”
Part of that evolution is its customer-facing app for car sharing, which is rated 2.5 out of 5 stars in the Apple App Store and 4 out of 5 stars by Android users. User complaints range from the app crashing and not working efficiently enough to unlock and start the cars, to the cleanliness and availability of vehicles.
Maven has released 19 updates to improve app performance and customer service, including adding capabilities to reserve a vehicle for a specific time and having the vehicle set to a certain temperature upon the driver’s arrival.
“The clock speed in this is very different than automotive,” GM’s Kosak said. “These cycles are pretty fast.”
Fast updates and fixes are what many users — particularly in Maven’s core target market — have come to expect. Nearly 80 percent, or 52,000, of Maven’s 65,000 members are millennials between the ages of 18 and 37. The average age of a Maven customer is 30.
Maven currently operates in 17 markets, including thousands of vehicles in its Maven Gig program and hundreds in its consumer car sharing service. Officials said any plans to expand Maven offerings are likely to be within those markets.
“Right now, in the U.S., we are now tuning, optimizing and growing the existing membership,” Kosak said. “It’s learning for us right now.”