Car2go, the free-floating car-sharing service owned by Daimler, launched in Chicago this week — the company’s 25th market globally. The car-sharing company, which lets customers rent out vehicles on a short-term basis, has been steadily expanding in the past several years, adding to and changing up its fleet beyond the diminutive Smart cars that were once the lone option for customers.
This launch stands out because it’s the first time in four years that car2go has added a U.S. city to its ranks. The last time car2go added a U.S. city was New York in 2014.
The car-sharing service has more than 3.3 million members worldwide, of which about 1 million are in the U.S. and Canada — a 25 percent growth over the prior year, according to the company. Today, the car-share service offers Mercedes-Benz CLA and GLA, as well as the two-door Smartfortwo vehicles.
Daimler was one of the first automakers to get into the car-sharing business. And others have followed, some of which have announced plans just in the past few months. In 2016, BMW’s ReachNow re-launched in North America and GM started Maven, which recently expanded its offerings to a peer-to-peer car-sharing service in Chicago, Detroit and Ann Arbor, Michigan. VW Group announced in July it will launch a car-sharing service next year in Germany that uses only electric vehicles, with plans to expand to other major cities in Europe, North America and Asia beginning in 2020. Volvo and Renault have also announced plans for a car-sharing service.
This automaker-jumps-into-car-sharing-story is indicative of a bigger trend within an auto industry grappling with how to earn money beyond the traditional business of building and selling cars. And this period of transition and experimentation isn’t likely to slow down.
If anything, expect more tinkering. For instance, Daimler announced Thursday it would break itself into three separate units — focused on trucks, its Mercedes-Benz car division and mobility — in a massive restructuring aimed at helping it keep pace with the emergence of automated and electric vehicles.