FILE PHOTO: A sign for General Motors Co. car-sharing operation, Maven hangs on the facade of the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) in New York
By Paul Lienert
(Reuters) - General Motors Co's <GM.N> Maven car sharing and rental unit is expanding its partnerships in ride and delivery services as parent GM considers whether to enter the on-demand mobility business now dominated by Uber Technologies and Lyft Inc.
The trick will be not to alienate the two ride services startups, whose drivers are leasing thousands of GM vehicles.
Maven already has begun to pull away from Lyft, in which GM holds a 9 percent stake, with its own Gig leasing business, officials said. Through Gig, Maven can provide GM vehicles directly to ride-sharing drivers who previously leased them through Lyft Express Drive and Uber Vehicle Solutions.
While executives say its future role has yet to be fully defined, Maven also has been assembling knowledge and expertise. This could enable GM to eventually offer on-demand mobility services, similar to those provided by Uber and Lyft, to a new generation of consumers who buy access to transportation by the hour.
Like other automakers keen to address the sharing economy, GM through Maven is testing a variety of on-demand services, from peer-to-peer car sharing to fractional ownership. So far, opinion is divided on whether and how much such on-demand services will supplant the industry's traditional vehicle ownership model.
Asked if GM aims to create its own ride and delivery service, Maven boss Julia Steyn says, “You’re on the right track. We are building this out step by step.”
Maven focused initially on car sharing at its launch in early 2016, then quickly added third-party leasing services through Uber and Lyft. Now it has partnered with on-demand delivery services GrubHub (meals), Instacart (groceries) and Roadie (packages), as well as HopSkipDrive, an on-demand ride share service aimed at children of working parents.
The alliances are providing valuable experience and data, according to Peter Kosak, GM’s executive director of urban mobility, helping Maven "to accelerate our deployment (and) learning” of new services.
Maven executives said they expect to bolster the Gig fleet next year with the addition of 2,000-3,000 Chevrolet Bolt EVs as more cities outside California add charging stations.
Maven is still relatively small compared with Uber, whose market value exceeds GM's. Still, Maven has mushroomed in the past 18 months. Its fleet of nearly 10,000 vehicles has accumulated 170 million miles and provided 17.5 million rides to Lyft and Uber customers, officials said.
(Reporting by Paul Lienert in Detroit; Editing by Phil Berlowitz)