BMW says it will launch a new joint car-sharing service with the German car rental company, Sixt AG. Starting in Munich and Berlin in 2011, BMW says the venture is planned to expand internationally, offering premium vehicles and a range of supporting services that the companies say will be the first of a kind for the industry.
The new company will be called DriveNow, a nod to the enterprise’s aim of making the car-share experience “complication-free” for upmarket urban drivers who may have shied away from other services like ZipCar because of a lack of luxury options and the hassle of locating and traveling to drop-off stations. DriveNow will eschew pick-up and drop-off points in favor of allowing drivers to simply leave cars behind wherever they’ve last parked them. Subscribers will be able to locate and reserve vehicles using the DriveNow website or a smartphone app.
The news comes one month after BMW announced that its “Project i” sustainable mobility program would officially be spun into its own sub-brand—with the forthcoming i3 “MegaCity” vehicle and i8 plug-in hybrid representing the first official BMW i releases. Though DriveNow isn’t slated to open with any hybrid or electric vehicles in its initial fleets, it will be housed under the i brand because of its relevance to BMW’s vision of modern urban mobility.
“There is a growing demand for flexible mobility products in urban areas,” said BMW AG Board of Management member Ian Robertson in a press release. “DriveNow’s premium car sharing services are aimed precisely at this gap in the market.”
In doing its initial Project i research, BMW decided that the future of urban mobility lay in what it called “mega-trends,” which are based around the intersections of the three types consumer needs: responsibility, economy, and lifestyle. The conclusion the automaker came to was that there will be no monolithic solutions for tomorrow’s urban residents but rather a patchwork of products and services targeted at the unique needs of the world’s major population centers.
As a result, BMW is approaching the problem not just from the standpoint of a vehicle manufacturer but also that of an investment bank, a software developer, and now, a car-share provider. Having multiple entry points into the urban mobility market will give BMW the flexibility to integrate its vehicle and service offerings and tailor them to these all-important megacities, which demographic analysts say will host an increasing portion of the growing world population.
Though this may be the boldest move any major carmaker has made into vehicle-sharing, BMW is by no means the first to set its sights on the sector. Last year, Renault-Nissan and Hertz announced a partnership to bring electric vehicles to the Connect By Hertz pay-as-you-go car rental program, and a Ford executive recently had some very interesting things to say about the viability of personal consumer vehicles in an increasingly crowded world.