GM's Maven ponders lawnmowers, UFOs as it seeks to diversify beyond cars and trucks

GM's Maven ponders lawnmowers, UFOs as it seeks to diversify beyond cars and trucks

- in Automotive

Maven sees a future in which consumers share a wide variety of things — even boats.

General Motors’ Maven mobility brand isn’t limiting itself to being just a provider of cars and trucks.

“If there will be a UFO that is going to be able to be shared, I would expect at some point to be able to put it on the Maven platform,” Julia Steyn, vice president of GM Urban Mobility and Maven, told Automotive News.

Maven’s current car-sharing marketplace, which includes a recently expanded peer-to-peer program alongside short-term rental services, is just the first stage in what could be a diverse line of sharing services, Steyn said.

Cars and trucks are the main growth focus for now, she said, but future endeavors could include anything that sits idle — from lawnmowers to more expensive offerings such as RVs and boats.

“We want to bring Maven to a diversified and large marketplace that fits people’s personal needs and professional needs,” she said.

Such opportunities and Maven’s transition from rental agency to sharing platform are expected to be talking points for Steyn as she addresses investors this week at conferences in San Francisco and New York City.

Wall Street has been bullish on many of GM’s tech plays, including Maven and Cruise — GM’s autonomous vehicle unit — as ways to offset potential declines in vehicle sales.

But the long-term plan for Maven, its place within GM and how to expand it into a profitable business haven’t always been clear.

Maven started in January 2016 with its own fleet of cars available for short-term rentals through a mobile app. Even then, the company voiced its ambition to be a “personal mobility brand,”  not simply another ZipCar. What followed was a rapid, at times confusing, series of initiatives and partnerships that have since been simplified into two core businesses: Maven Gig and Maven City.

Gig, which rents vehicles to delivery services and drivers for ride-hailing services for a week or more at a time, has grown to account for roughly two-thirds of Maven’s roughly 6,000 vehicles in North America.

City — the short-term rental service for consumers — operates in the U.S. and Canada. GM has used it to help establish the brand and gauge demand for vehicles, which Steyn said was imperative before launching its peer-to-peer initiative.

Growing P2P

Maven is very focused on expanding the peer-to-peer business, she said, and plans to add roughly 30 vehicles a week between now and year end. The program was launched in July as a trial in Chicago, Detroit and Ann Arbor, Mich. It is expected to expand to seven additional cities by the end of the year. “We strongly believe that this is the new way how people will interact with cars,” Steyn said.

In peer-to-peer sharing, Maven is playing catchup to more established companies such as Turo, which operates in more than 4,500 cities with more than 800 makes and models, and Getaround, which launched its service in 2013 and claims more than 200,000 members in the U.S.

Maven reports it has more than 170,000 registered users who have driven roughly 259,000 trips since its 2016 launch.

Maven’s program allows owners and eligible lessees of GM vehicles — 2015 and newer — to make them available on Maven’s car-sharing platform for cash. Revenue is split 60-40 between the vehicle owners and GM — in line with competitors.

Turo’s website reports that owners’ monthly earnings average $500, while Getaround’s touts owners making “$1,000s per year.” Maven declined to provide a figure, but Steyn said she made $1,000 from putting her vehicle, a Chevrolet Equinox, on Maven during the first month of the program.

‘Significant revenue’

Steyn declined to discuss Maven’s finances, though she said the brand has “generated significant revenue” from its own fleet and that peer-to-peer will only add to that.

In 2016, GM President Dan Ammann said the company viewed Maven as a long-term investment that might not make money for the automaker at first but will in the future as the program expands.

Peer-to-peer sharing could be key to unlocking that profit potential, since there’s far less overhead and logistical cost compared with managing a company-owned fleet.

Michelle Krebs, executive analyst at Autotrader, believes Maven’s car sharing is “a step” in shared mobility, but the main growth area remains ride-hailing services like Uber. “We don’t feel someone has hit upon the right formula yet,” she said.

Krebs also questioned whether car sharing can attract new customers to GM, given that Maven’s young customers— the average age is 30 — are more likely to buy used vehicles.

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