Some automakers are embracing the encroachment of the sharing economy by taking inspiration from this business model.
Rather than fear or fight the encroachment of the sharing economy, some automakers are embracing it by taking inspiration from this business model. Over the past few years, several major brands have invested in car-sharing schemes, including Daimler’s Car2Go (now in 30-plus cities, most recently Stockholm and Brooklyn) and BMW’s DriveNow, a partnership with car-sharing firm Sixt. Now several new ideas are popping up. In a premium twist, last month Audi introduced Unite, “a collaborative car initiative that refashions mobility as a personalized micro-sharing experience.” Launched in Stockholm, the program lets participants choose up to four people with whom to share a lease, using beacons and mobile apps for tracking usage, scheduling and coordination. Monthly payments are adjusted based on driver usage. Audi is reportedly planning two different car-sharing pilots in two U.S. cities but hasn’t disclosed details.
Meanwhile, Toyota’s innovative Ha:mo (short for harmonious mobility) electric car-sharing service is a “last mile” solution—a way for urban residents to get from public transportation to their destination—that uses two ultra-compact electric models. (One of the vehicles, the futuristic three-wheel i-ROAD, is a hybrid car and scooter that leans as it rounds corners.) Cité Lib by Ha:mo launched in Grenoble, France, in October, and was billed as a three-year experiment, part of Toyota’s bid to create a “Smart Mobility Society.”
As younger drivers shy away from car ownership, all automakers will need to adjust. Reuters reports that according to ARK Investment Management, an increase in car-sharing to 5 percent of all journeys in the U.S. could almost cut auto sales by half. At the same time, with traffic and air pollution a bane of urban living, cities are starting to reimagine the role of cars, exploring systems that combine public transport and car sharing. In addition to the Grenoble experiment, Helsinki is starting to implement an ambitious “mobility on demand” program.
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