BMW and Mercedes-Benz are dumping ShareNow — their jointly managed car-sharing businesses — and Stellantis will reportedly become the recipient. Effectively a merger of BMW’s DriveNow and Mercedes’ (technically Daimler AG’s) slurry of similar services that were rolled into car2go, ShareNow’s individual components have spent the last decade trying to figure out which markets would embrace app-based, roadside rentals charging by the minute and which would reject it.
After suspending manual background checks to encourage fresh users in April, Daimler subsidiary Car2Go found itself with a problem in Chicago — its new customers were stealing cars by the gross.
On the April 15th, the ride-sharing service notice an uptick in usage that was well above the norm. However, as the day progressed, the company found that a lot of its higher-end vehicles weren’t coming back. Instead, they were convening on Chicago’s West Side. Two days later, the Chicago Police Department announced that it had been notified by Car2Go that some of the company’s vehicles may have been rented by deceptive or fraudulent means and was officially on the prowl for justice.
Having already launched the Care by Volvo subscription program, the Swedish-Chinese automotive brand wants to continue cramming feathers into its cap. It’s now launching a new mobility brand that sounds very similar to car-sharing services offered by numerous automakers and rental firms.
There could be an issue with the naming strategy, however. Volvo wants to call the company M, which is a letter of the alphabet that’s of particular interest for BMW. In case you’ve been in a coma for the last forty years, the German automaker has used the letter M (for Motorsport) to denote its performance division and affixes it to everything in its lineup with sporting pretensions. While it probably can’t claim ownership of all things relating to the mark, it’s definitely not going to be thrilled to see Volvo using it.
Automotive soothsayers have foreseen the coming Armageddon, where private car ownership vanishes and we’re all ferried around in robotic taxis or rental vehicles, and manufacturers have taken their divinations to heart. Either that, or the opportunity to diversity already successful companies is too tempting a prospect to pass up. As such, we’ve seen “mobility” become the new industry buzzword — used as a fill-in for electric vehicles, autonomous development, and ride-sharing/hailing programs.
Hoping to expand its own mobility services, Daimler has announced an openness to seek broader alliances just days after BMW Group bought out its rental car partner, Sixt, from their joint car-sharing program DriveNow. That sets the stage for a peculiar partnership, as the two German automakers have a long, competitive history with each other — one which sometimes results in passive-aggressive behavior.
Daimler announced in February that it would stop sending gasoline-powered models to North America this summer and move exclusively to EVs after inventory levels decline. Dealers had until the end of June to decide if they wanted to be a part of the next wave of personal mobility.
With Smart swapping to electric-only drivetrains for U.S. retailers, we assumed the majority of Mercedes-Benz dealers still clinging onto the microscopic Fortwo would abandon it — as would every standalone Smart store still in existence.
Smart only sold 54 electric models within the United States between January and May, so it’s understandable that this summer saw over two-thirds of all retailers opting out of the deal. That leaves Smart with only 27 sanctioned stores within the United States, making it more exclusive than Lotus, Ferrari, Lamborghini, and even Rolls-Royce.
You’d probably never guess this from examining any parking lot in suburban North America, but Daimler’s microcar brand is actually doing exceedingly well. Despite the global trend toward crossovers, Smart saw record sales last year and increased its global volume 21 percent to 144,479 units. More amazing is that it’s still a brand that owes the entirety of its success to one niche market.
Smart doesn’t seem interested in changing course, either. While it’s abandoning internal combustion units to pursue a strict EV-only mentality in the United States, it will be business as usual for the the rest of the planet. But, with much of the industry offering spanking new compact crossovers and with fuel prices still so low, wouldn’t it be in Smart’s best interest to look beyond the limited microcar segment?
Daimler AG’s Car2Go has been a great way for the company to dump Smart Fortwos on urban areas and turn a profit while the itty-bitty city car’s popularity wanes. However, with only the single small offering, Car2Go is the only vehicle-sharing service that forces subscribers to decide which of their two children will have to be left behind to fend for themselves every time they take a trip somewhere.
In response, Mercedes-Benz is providing its CLA and GLA to C2G’s North American fleet — reuniting families, allowing a week’s worth of grocery shopping in a single run, and making its service substantially more competitive with rival ZipCar.
Bitter rivals Daimler AG and BMW are planning to combine their car-sharing services —Car2Go and DriveNow — to compete with North America’s Uber car service. The two must be desperate to make headway into the world of vehicle ownership alternatives if they are willing to cooperate on the project.
BMW famously avoided a Daimler-Benz takeover in 1959 by convincing nearly every employee to invest back into the company, thus avoiding both bankruptcy and being forced to join with their main competitor. More recently, Daimler offered BMW employees free admission to the Mercedes-Benz Museum for BMW’s 100th birthday, where they could learn “the complete history of the automobile.”
Might as well admit it: I have an unhealthy fascination with the service known as car2go. It’s just so… improbable. I’m pretty sure it began as a way to dump some Smart “ForTwo” inventory into service so the Daimler-Benz lines could keep operating at something like capacity. Since its inception, the service has been in near-constant flux: adding and removing services, changing the fees in predictable and unpredictable ways, suffering service outages, and generally perplexing its customer base, of which I am a devoted and unusually enthusiastic member.
car2go‘s newest change, communicated to me via email yesterday, concerns a significant reduction in their service area. After confirming that my usual lunch runs remain possible, I thought no more about it.
For a while, anyway.
Police in Denver say suspects in a drive-by shooting in January may have rented several Smart Fortwos under fake names to use in connection with their crimes.
The Denver Post is reporting that in affidavits filed by detectives investigating the Jan. 4 shooting, Denver police asked the car-sharing company for GPS data from the cars when investigators learned multiple cars were rented with bogus names.
Surveillance camera footage from a nearby business showed the vehicles near the shooting at the time the crime was committed.
There’s a new car sharing program in Columbus, Ohio called car2go (not capitalized). For $0.38/minute, smart cars are available for rent – fuel and insurance are included. They can be driven anywhere, but they have to be returned to a public parking space within the designated “home area”. The Columbus home area is essentially downtown, the immediately adjacent suburbs, and the Ohio State University campus. I am fortunate enough to live in the home area and for the past several weeks I have been tempted by a car-nu-co-pia of car2gos (cars2go?) smart cars parked everywhere.
In cities where owning a car can be a pain (New York, Boston, Seattle), drivers are opting instead to share vehicles with other drivers, with companies such as ZipCar, Car2Go, RelayRides et al offering their services to help the public get around. All anyone needs beyond the basics is a subscription to the car-sharing service, a reservation, and a drop-off location when they are finished with their errands. Even big-name rental car companies like Enterprise and Hertz are jumping into the new business model for a test drive, Avis having gone the farthest by purchasing ZipCar in January of 2013.
However, the insurance offered by these peer-to-peer rental companies might not all that it’s cracked up to be, with severe consequences should anything remotely catastrophic occur.
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