General Motors announced the launch of a peer-to-peer rental program on Tuesday, allowing GM owners to list their personal vehicles to rent through the automaker’s car-sharing platform.
Dubbed Peer Cars, the program lets Chevrolet, Buick, GMC and Cadillac owners put their cars and trucks up for rent when they aren’t using them. The company is touting the service as a way for GM customers to earn extra income. The service is an expansion of GM’s car-sharing platform, Maven, which rents out GM-owned cars, the company said.
"Your car is one of the most expensive things you own. Sitting idle, it is a wasted asset,” said Julia Steyn, vice president of General Motors urban mobility and Maven. “Maven’s peer-to-peer offering is a smart way for owners to offset their vehicle investment.”
The announcement is another signal that one of America’s iconic companies is evolving from its traditional role as an automaker to a business that sells individual rides via rentals and ride-hailing fleets.
In January, GM unveiled its first autonomous car, a vehicle known as the Cruise AV, which lacks a steering wheel, pedals and manual controls. Beginning in 2019, the fourth generation of that vehicle will be used in a ride-hailing service in multiple American cities, where “the vehicles will travel on a fixed route controlled by their mapping system,” Bloomberg reported.
GM said that more than 150,000 people already use Maven. The vehicles on the platform are insured through GM’s $1,000,000 policy, and Maven members are “thoroughly vetted” before they can use the service, GM said.
GM’s Peer Cars follows the on-demand car-sharing model of start-ups such as Turo and Getaround. With 250,000 cars and 850 models available to users around the world, Turo is the largest peer-to-peer car-sharing network.
Tesla also has plans to build a car-sharing network, one propelled by autonomous vehicles. As with the rise of ride-hailing services Uber and Lyft, car sharing has attracted the attention of major automakers seeking to meet evolving consumer demands. Ford, BMW and Volkswagen are among the car companies that operate or have invested in car-sharing networks.
Peer Cars vehicles must be model year 2015 or newer, the company said. GM will first test the service in Chicago, Detroit and Ann Arbor, Mich., where there are high numbers of GM owners. It plans to expand to other locations in the fall.
Peer Cars will be available to customers via an app, allowing someone to rent out a car for several hours or several days at a time, a model used by Zipcar, Getaround and Turo.
The peer-to-peer model is often compared to the home-sharing service Airbnb, and companies like Turo claim it helps their members pay off their vehicles. The average sale price for vehicles in the United States climbed to $35,285 this spring, according to Kelley Blue Book.
Steyn parroted Turo’s claim Tuesday, telling the Detroit Free Press that Maven can help owners “offset their vehicle investment.”
“You see the willingness for the Airbnb members to put their house on the platform,” she told the paper. “I think it’s a lot less personal and emotional to put a car on the platform than your own bed.”
But the peer-to-peer model has faced stiff opposition from the multibillion-dollar rental car industry, a powerful lobby that has accused companies like Turo of operating like a rental car company but bypassing regulations that rental companies abide by, such as tracking recall notices and inspections.
The rental industry has introduced bills with new regulations for car-sharing companies in more than a dozen state legislatures across the United States, waging a legislative war against start-ups like Turo.
“The advantage peer-to-peer has over traditional rental companies is they don’t own the fleet and they’re more lean and adaptable and have a better understanding of the local market,” Alexandre Marian, a director in the automotive and industrial practice at consultant AlixPartners, told The Washington Post in March. “The rental car companies see it as a potential threat. And they should if they want to remain in business.”