With much of the traffic clogging city roads made up of vehicles that carry a single occupant to work, sit idle for the day (usually attracting inflated parking fees) and then return home, driving in urban areas is a headache that just keeps getting worse. While public transport is the answer for many, some still require the flexibility of a car. Recognizing this, BMW is positioning itself as not just an automobile manufacturer but rather a "mobility provider," and has partnered with car rental company Sixt for a car sharing venture called DriveNow that will offer premium BMW models that can be picked up and dropped off wherever the user needs them.
While there have been a few car sharing services popping up in various cities around the world in recent years, most use small cars such as the Smart Fortwo and Maya 300. DriveNow is aimed at drivers who expect a little more luxury and as the first "premium" car sharing scheme it will initially offer various BMW 1 Series and MINI models, with plans to use electric models in the future and the possibility of adding other models depending on demand. All the vehicles available for hire will have at least four seats and fittings such as parking assistance, AC and heated seats.
Unlike BMW's pilot BMW on Demand scheme, which offered fixed pick-up and drop-off points, drivers will be able to find available DriveNow vehicles via the Internet, a smartphone app, or by simply coming across one parked in the street. Customers will be able to use the vehicles without an advance reservation or they can book in advance over the Internet or using the smartphone app. In addition to free parking spaces in the center of town, the scheme will also provide spaces in selected multi-story car parks.
Upon a one-off registration at a Sixt station, customers will be provided with a chip that is attached to their driver's license that is used in place of a conventional car key. The chip is used to lock, unlock and start the DriveNow vehicles and keep track of how long the vehicle was used.
While the scheme is open for anyone with a valid driver's license, 18 to 21 year-old beginner drivers can also join up if they successfully complete an approved driving safety course.
DriveNow members pay a one-off 29 euro (approx. US$41) registration fee and are then charged 29 cents (US$0.41) per minute – the maximum hourly charge for the MINI Cooper is 14.90 euro (approx. US$21) – which covers all costs including parking and fuel. For users that want to leave the car but hang onto the vehicle they are charged 10 cents (US$0.14) a minute.
The DriveNow scheme will kick off in Munich next month with 300 BMW 1 Series and MINI vehicles, with Berlin to follow shortly thereafter and expansion to other European cities in the coming years. The long-term plan is to introduce the scheme on other continents as well with the aim of having one million DriveNow members worldwide by 2020.