GM Maven service to bring 'Gig' car-sharing program to Baltimore

General Motors’ car-sharing service, Maven, is bringing its “Maven Gig” option — which allows users to rent cars for freelance driving jobs such as ride-share or delivery — to Baltimore.

The service, which can be found in the Maven app, allows drivers to rent one of four kinds of vehicles for a flat weekly rate that includes insurance and gas.

“Maven Gig can be summed up in four words: ‘Our car, your hustle,’” said Amanda Khera, GM Maven’s city general manager for Baltimore.

The new service is an extension of the original Maven City, which is similar to Zipcar and allows users to rent GM cars by the hour or day. The app-based service has no membership or application fees and allows cars to be reserved in advance and paid for with a credit card.

Cars, which are parked in lots around the city, are unlocked and started with the app via Bluetooth.

Maven Gig is designed to allow people who don’t have cars — or those who can’t or don’t want to use their own — to drive for Uber, Lyft, Grubhub, Instacart, Roadie and other app-based, ride share or delivery services, Khera said.

The debut comes a little over a week before the biggest ride-share night of the year: the Wednesday night before Thanksgiving.

“With Thanksgiving and the other holidays right around the corner, it’s right in time to make sure they can make that extra money and make sure they have a vehicle to get around during the holidays,” Khera said.

Maven Gig is also available in Boston, Detroit, Los Angeles, San Diego, San Francisco, Phoenix and Washington. Ride-share drivers already have driven more than 170 million miles on Maven Gig since the service was introduced in May, Khera said.

The rental fees for Maven Gig’s are flat, Khera said, giving drivers a constant in a world of surging and falling fares.

“We made sure we had weekly flat rental rate to make sure drivers can predict what their expenses are going to be,” Khera said.

A user may rent a compact car such as a Chevrolet Cruz for $189 per week; a sedan, including the Chevy Malibu, for $209 per week; a mid-sized SUV like the Chevy Trax for $219 per week; and electric cars such as the Chevy Bolt EV for $229 per week. (Electric-vehicle charging also is included in the price.)

Maven Gig is a fascinating business move by GM into the supply side of the car-sharing market, said Kerry Tan, assistant professor of economics at Loyola University Maryland’s Sellinger School of Business.

“That’s a really interesting play in my opinion,” Tan said. “Maybe your car is not to Uber or Lyft standards, but you’re still interested in this part-time job. … Having this service allows [drivers] to work for Uber or Lyft, but they don’t have to take out a loan to buy a new car for themselves.”

“GM, using Maven, is trying to lower the entry cost into this job opportunity,” he added.

Maven is not the only car rental company to step into the ride-sharing arena. Hertz offers car rentals for Uber drivers in 11 cities, although Baltimore is not among them.

Uber launched a leasing program called Xchange Leasing, but recently shut it down due to higher-than-expected costs. General Motors may be better positioned to succeed in that market, Tan said, because the automaker already has the cars at its disposal.

“GM has the fleet of cars that would be useful in this type of market, because a lot of their cars in Maven are compact cars with good gas mileage that are easy to navigate through Baltimore City streets,” he said.

In addition to its appeal for people who can’t afford a car, Maven Gig opens the door to people who want to drive for ride-share or delivery for a short period of time to make some short-term money, Tan said.

“Maybe you’re not interested in driving for Uber for a dedicated amount of time; you just need a really quick income fix,” he said. “Maybe some people are taking up these gigs to shore up short-term financial needs.”

Tan doesn’t think Maven Gig signals a future move by GM into a ride-sharing app that directly competes with Uber and Lyft.

“The issue I have with that is, GM can certainly service the supply side but I think it would be very hard for GM to compete with Uber and Lyft on the demand side,” he said. “I think the barrier to entry there is rather large.”

cmcampbell@baltsun.com

twitter.com/cmcampbell6

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