Mini hitches a ride on global car-share boom
British carmaker Mini has joined the rush to solve the problem of customers abandoning car ownership in favour of carsharing, launching a scheme that effectively offers buyers the chance to offset the purchase price by renting out their vehicles.
Established carmakers worldwide are looking for ways to stay relevant for a generation of drivers that increasingly prefers the convenience of car sharing. Toyota has a scheme renting cars from dealerships, Ford launched Ford2Go carsharing in Germany, while General Motors' Opel arm has its CarUnity scheme.
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The Mini plan announced on Wednesday will work by expanding parent BMW's existing DriveNow carsharing scheme to allow Mini owners to use the same smartphone app for thirdparty drivers to pay part of the company's proceeds to the car's owner.
The sharing economy's gathering momentum is already starting to hit car sales. A recent survey of US metropolitan car-sharing markets by AlixPartners showed that the availability of one car-sharing vehicle displaced the purchase of 32 new cars.
The new Mini concept, however, aims to offer buyers the best of both worlds.
"The idea behind (accommodation website) Airbnb, to offer up private property for wider usage, was the inspiration behind the idea of offering a car-sharing option for Mini," said Peter Schwarzenbauer, the BMW board member responsible for the Mini brand.
BMW launched its DriveNow service in 2011. The scheme now has more than 450,000 users and makes a profit.