Maven is more than the car-sharing arm of General Motors. The two-year-old brand has become a laboratory for many of the company’s projects in the burgeoning mobility realm, and the latest one is poised to arrive this summer. Maven will launch a service that encourages car owners to rent their vehicles while they’re not in use, according to Bloomberg, which first reported the development on Tuesday. The GM brand would host a platform that enables this peer-to-peer rental while keeping a slice of the revenue for itself. Essentially, it’s Airbnb for a set of wheels.
A GM spokesperson would not confirm those plans Tuesday but said, “We are always considering new, innovative ways to make sharing easier.”
Although not official, such a peer-to-peer rental platform would align with the brand’s aggressive pursuit of a certain set of new customers: city dwellers disinclined to own vehicles. Such a strategy represents a pivot for the automaker, but its embrace of that path has been clear. Last month, when Maven expanded to Toronto, General Motors said, “Thanks to Maven, car ownership in Toronto is no longer necessary.”
This would be the latest in a string of projects rolled out under the Maven banner. Created in 2016, Maven began strictly as a car-sharing service that allows customers to borrow a range of GM vehicles at hourly rates in select U.S. cities. In May 2016, it expanded to include Maven Gig, a program that offers freelance drivers weekly rates that can include insurance, maintenance, and charging for electric vehicles.
Beyond those initiatives, Maven executives have thought more broadly about how the brand can boost its parent company and be influential in the growing marketplace for “mobility.” In select cities where the Chevrolet Bolt EV has become a flagship in its fleets, Maven has worked with utility companies to plan for charging stations and electricity demand. All the while, cars in the Maven fleet are being used to gather data and insights for the eventual launch of self-driving vehicles.
Maven now operates in 16 North American markets. Peer-to-peer sharing could allow the brand to boost its availability of vehicles without owning the cars itself. But under its current operation, Maven’s vehicles are exchanged at dedicated locations in a city, such as in parking garages or near public-transit hubs. It’s not immediately clear where vehicle exchanges between Maven customers and private owners would be made.
“As people put them up for rent, they’re turning
their cars into earnings machines.”
– Christin Di Scipio, Turo
If the concept of peer-to-peer sharing now proposed by Maven sounds familiar, it’s because it already exists. Founded in 2009, Turo has positioned itself as a vehicular pioneer in the sharing economy, and it can offer some figures that illustrate what makes a peer-to-peer platform so attractive to a traditional automotive company.
Headquartered in San Francisco, the Daimler-backed company says that car owners can cover their monthly car payments by renting their cars nine days a month, on average. A platform like Turo might help them afford a more expensive vehicle. For one example, Turo says that Tesla Model S owners generate average earnings of $1021 per month in seven days of rental, which would be enough to cover the payments on the $67,200 car, assuming a 5 percent down payment and a 4.74 percent interest rate.
Renters, on the other side, can select from a multitude of listings that go far beyond the econoboxes available from traditional car-rental companies, and in some cases, a car owner will even arrange delivery and pickup of the vehicle.
“Cars are used about 5 percent of the time, and the rest of the time they’re just sitting there,” says Christin Di Scipio, a Turo spokesperson. “For most people, they’re the second-biggest purchase after a house, and they’re always just sitting there as a depreciating asset. Now, as people put them up for rent, they’re turning their cars into earnings machines.”
Turo says that more than four million people worldwide have signed up to use the service as of 2017, and more than 171,000 vehicles are now listed.
Whether such peer-to-peer rentals appeal to entrepreneurial-minded owners who want to make money with their vehicles or to car enthusiasts who desire a more engaging rental on their next business trip, the steady growth of Turo—and now the reported arrival of a competing platform from Maven—shows there’s a willingness to experiment with the underlying dynamics of both car ownership and rental vehicles and to see how they can be blurred together.