Business conditions precipitated by the COVID-19 crisis have proved the ideal distraction for General Motors to gently kick its Maven car-sharing initiative into touch.
Maven was one of those brave new mobility experiments that looked great in corporate presentations and was guaranteed to get Wall Street excited about automotive dinosaurs seeking new revenue streams and extracting more value from underutilized assets.
Disruptive business models were not meant to disrupt the companies applying these new strategies. But that’s exactly what they appear to have done. They are a distraction for the established automotive players, when they should have a laser-like focus on making their products as good as they can be. And it seems that when push comes to shove, they accept that too.
Maven had been launched in early 2016, but had never really taken off. In 2019, it had withdrawn its services from several cities in the US including Chicago, Boston and New York so the portents for Maven were not great before COVID-19 wreaked havoc through society and the economy.
Corporate largesse is out. Corporate redress is in.
Corporate largesse is out. Corporate redress is in. Or perhaps it’s a bit unfair to accuse GM of corporate largesse. It’s not been alone in this. Already we’ve seen BMW and Daimler’s car-sharing start-ups join forces and reinvent themselves as Share Now as the two try and engender a sustainable business from the concept.
Car companies have long cast envious glances at tech start-ups and their sky-high market capitalisations and sought ways to engineer Wall Street’s adulation. All along all they had to do was to engineer their vehicles to such a degree that consumers desired their vehicles above all others. After all, that’s pretty much what Tesla has achieved with its electric cars.
Maven will no doubt not be the last automotive frippery to make way as COVID-19 winds its way around the world. OEMs and suppliers will be busy MoSCoW*-ing their portfolios, cutting back to those products that are essential for driving revenue and profitability. It used to be that a proliferation of sports car and coupes was a signal that automakers had lost focus. Maybe for this generation it will be new mobility. Or to misquote Robin Williams, “Mobility is God’s way of telling you you’re making too much money.”
*Acronym for Must have; Should have; Could have; Wish
See also: GM Maven car sharing unit folds