By on May 21, 2019

GM Launches Personal Mobility Brand: Maven, Image: General Motors

Anyone following the saga of Uber and Lyft know that mobility services are not — not yet, anyway — a money tree that bears unlimited financial fruit. The same can be said of mobility services offered by automakers.

General Motors’ car-sharing service, Maven, like those more well-known companies, is still a fledgling operation experiencing growing pains. Its latest growth move involves shrinking, with the mobility brand dropping out of eight U.S. markets. (Read More…)

By on May 8, 2019

Uber and Lyft drivers from the world over are going on strike today to protest the company’s working conditions and pay. However, the careful timing of the event also appears to be aimed at torpedoing the brand’s fast-approaching IPO.

While Uber exists as a corporate middle man between riders hunting for a vehicle and drivers seeking a fare, the company’s official position is that both are customers. As Uber sees it, it’s providing both with access to its platform and thereby offering a service. But many drivers disagree and claim the only way to make a living is to work ludicrously long hours, which they believe should at least entitle them to be called employees and warrant some benefits.  (Read More…)

By on April 2, 2019

Despite playing host to what everyone presumed would be a very hot property, Lyft’s IPO hasn’t panned out as expected. While the company’s Friday stock debut was strong, April 1st was less promising, with Lyft’s share price slipping by nearly 12 percent in a single day. It’s now well beneath the target price, casting doubts about the financial sustainability of mobility firms.

It’s a complicated issue. Lyft was valued at more than $22 billion when it went public last week, but investors are concerned with the company’s inability to turn a profit. Last year, the ride-hailing giant posted a net loss of nearly $1 billion. With Uber likely to announce its own IPO soon (and likely face similar headwinds), many are concerned.  (Read More…)

By on September 9, 2018

 

Ren Cen. GM

While we’ve bashed them for being one of the most expensive ways to acquire a vehicle, automotive subscription plans have becoming increasingly popular among premium nameplates. General Motors already has one exclusively for Cadillac but it appears that it’s setting up another for its less illustrious brands.

Late last month, the automaker filed a trademark application to register the name “DriveScription” with the United States Patent and Trademark Office. The document clearly states that the term will be used in association with the Goods and Services categories of automotive subscription services, rental services, and vehicle sharing. Considering that Maven already handles most of the short-term rental and ride-sharing aspects of GM’s new mobility services, DriveScription is almost certain to be the mainstream equivalent to Book by Cadillac.  (Read More…)

By on August 24, 2018

A product onslaught with a questionable sales future is on the way from Volkswagen, but Americans, as well as Europeans, won’t necessarily have to purchase one to add it to their lifestyle.

Under its “We Share” ride sharing venture, Volkswagen plans to offer up its line of I.D. electric vehicles to urbanites who don’t own a car, but still wish to use one from time to time. Users won’t have to worry about a disappearing tax credit, that’s for sure. (Read More…)

By on July 24, 2018

2017 Chevrolet Malibu - Image: GM

A pilot project we discussed months ago is now up and running in Detroit, Ann Arbor, and Chicago. Launched by General Motors’ Maven ride-sharing arm, the new peer-to-peer service goes beyond the existing fleet of GM-owned vehicles (which Maven users can rent for varying periods) and into the realm of the privately-owned car.

Yes, there’s owners who are now letting their car work for them. (Read More…)

By on February 27, 2018

A recurring theme among ride-hailing executives from the likes of Lyft and Uber is that their platforms will help reduce congestion in the world’s most populous cities. However, anyone actually living in these places will tell you it doesn’t appear to be working. Cities like New York were already clogged with taxi cabs but, instead of seeing all of these drivers buy personal vehicles to enlist as independent contractors for ride-hailing firms, Uber and Lyft brought in new drivers, more vehicles, and fresh competition.

Worse yet, ride-sharing alternatives like Uber Pool have moved people away from buses and trains and placed them in the backseats of cars — further compounding the problem. It turns out city dwellers who already owned an automobile didn’t suddenly decide to get rid of it, and those who were heavily invested in mass transit discovered an affordable car-based alternative.  (Read More…)

By on February 2, 2018

Car2Go

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. (Read More…)

By on December 6, 2017

Mini Cooper 5-door production line Oxford - Image: BMW UK

Mini faces a fork in the road in the United States. The retro-themed brand, reintroduced in the U.S. marketplace in 2002 by parent company BMW Group, needs to decide what it wants to be. Sales are falling as consumer tastes evolve towards larger vehicles. New technologies are cropping up at a rapid pace. What is the child of the British Motor Corporation, British Leyland, Rover Group, and BMW Group to do?

BMW Group management board member Peter Schwarzenbauer knows the brand needs to evolve — and not just in the U.S., where the brand reach a high point in 2013. After announcing a new electric Mini Cooper Hardtop (Mini E) for 2019, Schwarzenbauer took some time to address its U.S. plans. (Read More…)

By on November 9, 2017

Carlos Ghosn

Everyone in the automotive industry is talking about a grand shift toward mobility, resulting in a future where nobody owns cars and we all putt around in autonomous pods. Well, almost everyone. Carlos Ghosn, who currently chairs the alliance between Nissan, Renault, and Mitsubishi, thinks that’s a crock.

While there’s plenty of executives keeping quiet on the evolution of ownership, few have come forward suggest business as usual will be the new status quo. Meanwhile, swaths of industry experts are pushing the notion that rental services, ride-sharing, and firms like Uber or Lyft will eventually replace the need for dealerships and garages.

Not Carlos. (Read More…)

By on July 27, 2017

lyft press kit photo, Image: Lyft

Taco Bell and ride-hail company Lyft announced plans this week to debut “a unique ride-thru” experience called “Taco Mode,” which will allow patrons to request a pit stop at the nearest Taco Bell location. Lyft claims it’s the perfect option for “passengers seeking the ultimate Taco Bell experience.”

While riders can already request to be driven to the restaurant with some of the worst-maintained bathrooms imaginable, Lyft promises the app makes the overall endeavor of  buying fast food “more convenient — and fun — than ever.”

Why would these companies join forces? According to the press release, it’s because they “are two like-minded brands at the forefront of technology and innovation.” Don’t laugh. After all, Taco Bell was the company that realized you could make a taco shell out of fried chicken, while Lyft was the organization that took Uber’s business model and added furry pink mustaches.

They also both serve the late-night community. The restaurant chain provides a “fourth meal” to individuals that are too drunk or stoned to cook and the ride-hailing service keeps them from endangering others by stopping them from operating a motor vehicle. On the surface, it seems like a natural fit for a genius cross-marketing opportunity — until you place yourself into the shoes of the driver plighted to slop these disgusting animals in the backseat.  (Read More…)

By on June 8, 2017

Ford Service Center, Image: Ford Motor Co.

Ford Motor Company may soon press dealership service centers to prioritize maintenance and repairs for ride-sharing fleets and their employees. This comes after the company’s decision to expand its in-house shuttling firm, known as Chariot, and as its long-term plan to bring an autonomous ride-sharing solution to market by 2021 takes shape. But Ford also knows rival companies can be a strong source of revenue. Omnicraft, anyone?

Even moderately sized cities have several thousand Uber and Lyft drivers, and Ford’s CEO of Smart Mobility Raj Rao thinks they represent an untapped resource. He believes service centers should go the extra mile for them, even if it means some dealerships have to stay open 24 hours to provide swift turnarounds.  (Read More…)

By on May 2, 2017

smart-fortwo

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?  (Read More…)

By on April 20, 2017

2015_Toyota_Prius_c_007

Automakers, both domestic and come-from-away, all want you to do the next best thing if your meager funds aren’t enough to get you into a showroom: borrow a car.

Ride-sharing services provide mainly urban dwellers with the car they so desperately crave, without the years of payments or need to find permanent parking. And, if an automaker partners up with a service provider — or creates its own — there’s still money flowing back to the offices of Big Auto. Win-win, no?

The growing trend is hard to ignore, and it means that automakers — already new to the game — face ever greater competition, even from unlikely sources. The latest company to offer a ride-sharing service isn’t a manufacturer at all. It’s the American Automobile Association. (Read More…)

By on March 21, 2017

Uber (freestocks.org/Flickr)

Uber’s president Jeff Jones is quitting the car-hailing business after a brief six-month stretch.

Jones’ choice of a swift departure is essentially down to the company’s controversy laden decisions and apparent degenerate corporate culture. In addition to allegations of widespread sexual harassment, Uber has managed to routinely anger local governments by ignoring autonomous testing laws and by employing algorithms that denied service to potential investigators, regulators, or law enforcement officials. It’s also been accused of property theft, and CEO Travis Kalanick is exhibiting behavior unlikely to win people over.

It’s a real shit show.

(Read More…)

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