BMW Launches “Premium Airbnb For Cars”

Bavarian automaker breaks into the car-sharing market.

Angling at a piece of the car-sharing pie, BMW has started trialling a new program called ReachNow in Seattle, Washington. Like Daimler’s Car2Go and most hotels you wouldn’t want to blacklight, this service allows customers to rent on a per-minute basis. BMW is calling it a “premium Airbnb for cars." 

For the time being, the ReachNow fleet consists of 370 vehicles, made up entirely of Minis, 3-Series, and electric i3s. Users find available cars via smartphone app, then drop them off within a predetermined radius. The program has a one-time $39 registration fee, and a rental rate at $0.49 per minute, plus a $1 per-ride tax. (Note: BMW’s running a “promotional” rate of $0.41 per minute at launch, and waving the registration fee). Longer usage periods are locked in at $50 for 3 hours, $80 for 12 hours, and $110 for 24 hours. Not cheap. But BMW’s banking on Seattleites indulging mostly short trips, and well-to-do Millennials’ willingness to fork over extra cash for a car with brand cache. Because nothing says “Success!” like an entry-level German sedan covered in rental car graphics.

Still, ReachNow isn’t without merit. In Europe, a similar BMW program has attracted nearly 600,000 members. And, according to the company, this Seattle pilot is just the beginning of a larger North American scheme; BMW wants to expand ReachNow to 10 or more U.S. cities over the next two to three years. It’s also looking to integrate chauffeur and peer-to-peer options. Ford and GM have already launched ride-sharing services. Expect more of these manufacturer-backed programs to continue popping up.