As car sharing programs like Lyft and Uber continue to grow in popularity, and more and more millennials move into the city to avoid excessive commute times, certain automakers are testing the market in the hopes of offering their own ride share programs. It may sound a little far-fetched, as car makers are not typically known for this kind of behavior, but as the times change so do the needs of the average commuter, and this is the kind of gamble that companies like Ford and Mini feel will earn them a new kind of customer.
Riding high on the reveal of its redesigned Clubman a while back, Mini says it will also be offering a car-sharing solution for private vehicles. According to the automaker’s press release, Mini execs explain that the thinking behind this service is well-timed since “Society and the automotive industry are undergoing radical change” and that “Mini customers are among the most progressive, open-minded target groups. So it makes sense for us to offer a car-sharing option for MINI starting in 2016.”
This program will be piggybacking on BMW’s DriveNow program, which has been a San Francisco-exclusive project thus far, and offers a slew of benefits that we would like to see carried over when Mini’s program goes live next year. If Mini mirrors the BMW version of DriveNow there would be a one-time $39 lifetime membership fee, free parking at DriveNow lots, and we would only be charged $12 for the first half hour of driving, followed by a 32¢ a minute fee thereafter. So with no additional charge for one-way trips, no annual or monthly fees or required insurance, this program is actually starting to look like a real winner in our book.
While Mini has already been running a similar program over in London for over a year now, the American-based version will offer us new optional equipment packages that will enable us to make vehicles available to DriveNow when not in use, and will utilize “peer-to-peer car sharing” for family members and close friends. There also will be attractive options in place for fleet customers, and while this program will not be available in DriveNow cities until 2016, Mini remains optimistic that it will be able to grow the program over time and infiltrate fresh markets.
But Mini isn’t the only one looking to try its hand at manufacturer-based car sharing, as Ford Motor Company has decisively moved forward with the next phase of its “Smart Mobility” and “GoDrive” sharing strategies. The Detroit automaker has been busy moving these programs from the research phase to full-blown implementation so that it may begin focusing on new strategic areas, pilot programs, and mobility product experiments.
The “Ford Smart Mobility” pilot program (which was introduced back in January) has been designed to help Ford better understand the typical consumer’s mobility needs and ways in which the Detroit automaker might capitalize upon these findings. This unorthodox move began when Ford invited 14,000 customers in six U.S. cities and 12,000 drivers in London to rent-out their Ford Credit-financed vehicles for short-term use to see if they could offset monthly ownership costs. Customers in Berkeley, Oakland, San Francisco, Portland, Chicago, and Washington, D.C. are currently testing this pilot program through November via ride-rental company Getaround, while London drivers are relying on easyCar Club for support.
Ford has been honing in on what millennials want for quite a while now, and findings from independent research firm Penn Schoen Berland (P.S.B.) have influenced its choices significantly. According to P.S.B.’s findings, more than one third of all millennials in the United States are interested in renting out their belongings as a way to supplement income, and that they rank car rides second only to book lending as something they are most open to sharing. Stats like these are the reason why Ford is pushing forward with its London-based GoDrive program, as it is designed to offer practical and affordable access to a fleet of cars for one-way journeys. This pilot offers Londoners fifty cars in twenty different locations, supports one-way trips with guaranteed parking, and has a pay-per-minute feature to cover all fees.
But are millennial drivers really ready for car sharing on such a level, regardless of which automaker or program is available? Mini and Ford sure think it is a worthy pursuit, and Ford president and CEO Mark Fields probably summed it up best when he stated “Our goal is to make people’s lives better by helping them more easily navigate through their day, address societal issues and, over time, change the way the world moves – just as Henry Ford did more than 100 years ago.”