By Paul Lienert
(Reuters) - General Motors Co's <GM.N> Maven car sharing and rental unit could wind up competing with two of its biggest customers, Uber Technologies and Lyft Inc, with an ambitious expansion plan that could take it eventually into ride and delivery services.
Maven already has begun to pull away from Lyft, in which GM holds a 9 percent stake, with its own Gig leasing business, officials said. Through Gig, Maven can provide GM vehicles directly to ride-sharing drivers who previously leased them through Lyft Express Drive and Uber Vehicle Solutions.
The Gig leasing business eventually will eclipse Maven's third-party leasing services to Lyft and Uber, according to Maven spokeswoman Annalisa Bluhm.
While executives say its future role has yet to be fully defined, Maven also has been quietly assembling the knowledge and expertise to enable GM eventually to compete directly with Uber, Lyft and other startups in offering on-demand mobility services to a new generation of consumers who buy access to transportation by the hour or eventually through fractional ownership of GM vehicles.
Maven focused initially on car sharing at its launch in early 2016, then quickly added third-party leasing services through Uber and Lyft. Now it has partnered with on-demand delivery services GrubHub (meals), Instacart (groceries) and Roadie (packages), as well as HopSkipDrive, an on-demand ride share service aimed at children of working parents.
The alliances are providing valuable experience and data, according to Peter Kosak, GM’s executive director of urban mobility, helping Maven "to accelerate our deployment (and) learning” of new services.
Asked if GM through Maven aims to create its own ride and delivery service, Maven boss Julia Steyn says, “You’re on the right track. We are building this out step-by-step.”
Maven executives said they expect to bolster the Gig fleet next year with the addition of 2,000-3,000 Chevrolet Bolt EVs as more cities outside California add charging stations.
While still relatively small compared with Uber — whose market value is more than that of GM — Maven has mushroomed in the past 18 months. Its fleet of nearly 10,000 vehicles has accumulated 170 million miles and provided 17.5 million rides to Lyft and Uber customers, officials said.
Along the way, Maven has expanded its scope and reach, with operations in 17 cities in North America and a foothold in Australia.
(Reporting by Paul Lienert in Detroit; Editing by Phil Berlowitz)