US: BMW has launched its ReachNow service, which allows customers to use one of 370 free-floating vehicles in Seattle.
BMW is taking on rival Car2go with the service, which allows
people to use the fleet to get from Point A to Point B within a
"Home Area" that encompasses much of Seattle.
The service offers four types of vehicles: BMW 328xi Series sedans, Mini Coopers (two- and four-door models), and the all-electric BMW i3 (with a range of 130 miles).
The service works via an app which lets users see available vehicles around them, filter by car type and click on each vehicle to see its fuel/charge level. Once a vehicle is selected BMW gives directions to the car if needed. Users then have 30 minutes to unlock the car before it becomes available to other users again.
BMW's Peter Schwarzenbauer said: "We are currently witnessing an extremely exciting period in the development of the automotive industry. Our customers rightly expect uncomplicated and fast solutions to their individual mobility needs, especially in metropolitan regions. This is why we are supplementing our classic business model with additional services that make life on the road easier for people in big cities. I am pleased that with the establishment of the ReachNow brand, we are able to offer our customers in Seattle 'on-demand mobility' - mobility when it's needed, from one single source. With this service, we are building up on Drive Now, our extremely successful European business model, and bringing it up to a new level in the U.S. Seattle is an innovative, internationally-oriented city which makes it the perfect location to launch these services."
ReachNow is a variation of DriveNow, the BMW/Sixt venture that has around 500,000 customers and 9,000 vehicles across nine European cities. DriveNow was launched in 2011.
Car sharing has moved on from a luxury/leisure service to an everyday transportation offer. The early car share operators such as the Classic Car Club and Auto Vivendi gave members access to classic and supercars without the hassle and expense of owning and maintaining one.
But new services such as ReachNow are essentially a motorised version of London's 'Boris Bikes', with a fleet of vehicles parked in convenient locations around a city and a pay-as-you-go charging model.
In urban locations where parking spaces are at a premium, the model makes a lot of sense. What ReachNow has in common with the supercar clubs is the removal of issues such as maintenance, tax, and storage - both make the driving experience much easier.