BMW Group and Sixt AG, a German-based car rental company, are set to launch a new car-sharing program, DriveNow, in Munich, Germany next month. The program will offer “premium” vehicles, comprehensive service and flexible usage, allowing customers to pick-up and drop-off cars in their location of choice, without being restricted to car hire stations or advance reservations. Customers will be able to locate vehicles through the company’s website or through smartphone apps, according to BMW’s press release.
The program will initially start off with approximately 300 BMW 1 Series and MINI vehicles. According to BMW, “The resulting vehicle density within the Mittlerer Ring [a high capacity ring road in downtown Munich] will ensure that customers will usually have no more than 500 meters [0.31 miles] to walk to the nearest available vehicle.” Users must pay a registration fee of €29 ($40) and €0.29 ($0.40) per minute.
Car-sharing programs offer a solution to traffic congestion, by reducing the number of cars on the road and keeping them in rotation by making them available to multiple users. Car-sharing can also help improve air quality and reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Ian Robertson, member of the Board of Management of the BMW AG for Sales and Marketing, is aware of this problem-solving aspect of the venture. “Car sharing also has a role to play in cutting down traffic volumes, by reducing the time spent searching for parking spaces and in providing an alternative replacement for little-used, old and inefficient vehicles,” stated Mr. Robertson. Despite their widespread availability, electric vehicles are not yet a part of BMW’s new program.
BMW’s foray into car-sharing reflects a shift in consumer attitudes about personal vehicle ownership and the need to re-think the role of cars in cities. BMW joins other automakers jumping on the shared-vehicle bandwagon. Daimler AG started its car2go service, which lets people rent Smart cars for however long they want, without needing reservations or picking up and dropping off in the same place. The service began in Ulm, Germany in 2008 and has now expanded to Austin, Tex.