Maven is the result of a realisation that General Motors needed to explore new ways of providing its customers with access to cars.
It started around three years ago with a trial involving a single building in New York, and was launched in Australia in 2017 with a focus on the ride-sharing business, allowing Uber and other drivers to hire late-model cars without having to buy them or enter into lease arrangements. Some 1600 cars are available in seven Australian cities.
In late 2018, the local operation expanded into the car-sharing market, offering hourly, daily or monthly rentals of a range of vehicles, GM International strategy and urban mobility director Anthony Riemann told iTWire. The monthly option is aimed mainly at businesses that want more flexibility that a normal lease allows.
Initial locations include Port Melbourne, Footscray, Vermont, Cheltenham and Dandenong, Maven Australia general manager John Kett told iTWire. "It's been a pilot for us," he explained.
The idea is to address the needs of people who use a car infrequently, or who need a different type of car (eg, an SUV or ute) at weekends, said Riemann.
The economics are quite simple for customers. Roughly speaking, the fixed costs around a modest car — registration, insurance and routine servicing — are about $2500 a year, and that's before you pay for fuel. Maven's prices start at $8 an hour (including fuel) for a small car with unlimited kilometres.
It can also make it viable to buy a small car for the daily commute, and then pick up a larger vehicle for family trips at the weekend, or a ute to collect the materials you need for that home reno project from the hardware store.
The Maven fleet includes cars such as the Trax, Commodore, Trailblazer and Colorado.
For car-sharing to be successful, customers need to be confident that the type of vehicle they need will be available when they need it.
"We've got a few years of data about how to manage that," said Riemann, so the company understands utilisation and knows when it needs to add cars to particular location. There is an option of booking a particular type of vehicle from one day to two weeks in advance.
Like other car-sharing services, Maven is app based and provides keyless access to vehicles. A single app covers the ride-sharing and car-sharing sides of the business.
"We're making some tangible gains," said Kett. Maven Australia now has 3200 members, and at the end of 2018 there had been four million trips covering approximately 80 million kilometres.
"It has been very much a soft launch," said Riemann, driven largely by word of mouth and participating dealers, but a significant campaign is being planned.
"Word of mouth is incredibly important to us," said Kett.
The other side of the expansion involves increasing the number of places where Maven cars can be collected or dropped off. The company is talking to various local councils, and while they are all "very encouraging", some have more mature processes than others. For example, the City of Melbourne (one of the councils that Maven is actively working with) has an established tender process for car-sharing businesses that want to use on-street parking bays.
Other locations being scouted include railway stations and other transport hubs, shopping centres, and large residential developments.
"It's an exciting time," said Riemann, "a growing opportunity" to provide customers with a different form of access to cars.