Earlier this week, General Motors unveiled its latest introduction of peer-to-peer (P2P) car sharing on its Maven platform. Up until now, the Maven fleet consisted of GM-owned vehicles parked around 11 cities in the United States, which users could rent as an all-inclusive service. Under the new Maven Peer program, which is being piloted in Chicago, Detroit, and Ann Arbor, owners of GM vehicles 2015 and newer will be able to add their vehicles to the current Maven fleet for short-term rental use.
The concept of disaggregated rental fleet ownership is not entirely new, however. Car sharing platform Turo, which recently raised a Series D round funded with capital from Daimler, among other investors, aggregates cars for private short-term rentals between individuals. Turo operates independently from Daimler and other OEMs and is therefore brand agnostic. While this structure increases the number of vehicles able to qualify for the Turo fleet, GM has a clear advantage when it comes to lowering the transaction costs associated with each rental. Specifically, when an owner signs up for the rental fleet, a Maven technician comes to the car and installs a device, which enables keyless access to the vehicle. As a result, owners no longer need to meet up with renters to exchange keys and can instead passively rent out their cars with little inconvenience. Further, given GM's migration toward 4G LTE-connected vehicles, it is only a matter of time until the installation step can be eliminated, with all new GM vehicles being natively configured to participate in Maven.
GM has also come up with some interesting solutions to distribute responsibility and liability between owners and renters. For example, GM provides a $1,000,000 insurance policy for rentals. However, the policy only covers damage or other liability while the vehicle is rented. The owner is still responsible for maintaining an insurance policy for all other times, including when the vehicle is idle between rentals but listed as available. While owners are protected, there are some subtle downsides to the split insurance arrangement. For example, some insurance policies offer discounts for lower-mileage drivers. If insurance companies do not allow an owner to distinguish between the mileage driven for personal use vs. driven by renters, an owner's insurance rates may climb to reflect the higher use, even though the vehicle would be covered under GM's policy for the additional renter mileage. GM does place a 180 daily mileage cap on its renters before a mileage surcharge is applied. However, with the average American driving 29.2 miles per day, it is unlikely that an owner will often, if ever qualify for additional reimbursement to make up for the higher insurance rate beyond the base rental income. Otherwise, GM has mostly removed itself from the equation, requiring renters to cover gas and any other fees (e.g., tolls, tickets, etc.) and requiring owners to pay for regular maintenance and keeping their cars clean.
Whether cars are owned by individuals or organizations in the future, it is clear that ownership will look very different, if GM has anything to say about it.
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