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BMW aims to expand car sharing in U.S. Read more: Follow us: @Automotive_News on Twitter | AutoNews on Facebook

BMW wants to expand its DriveNow car-sharing program to U.S. cities that will allow its electric vehicles to be picked up and dropped off on public streets.

DriveNow was launched in June 2012 in the San Francisco Bay Area, where the program has a fleet of 70 1-series coupe-based ActiveE EVs and 2,000 registered users. The Bay Area is DriveNow’s only U.S. location.

BMW started the program in San Francisco because the area is a car-sharing hotbed, said Richard Steinberg, CEO of DriveNow USA. Competitors include Zipcar, City CarShare and taxi and limousine services accessible via the Internet, he said.

But unlike in Europe, where BMW runs DriveNow in four cities that allow the vehicles to be left on the street, San Francisco “hasn’t embraced A to B car sharing,” Steinberg said.

In the Bay Area, BMW must use parking garages and other privately owned areas for its DriveNow vehicles. It has installed chargers at each of the 18 locations, including Stevens Creek BMW in Santa Clara, Calif.

“One of the main drivers of success is the street access,” Steinberg said. “Wherever you want to be, there have to be arrangements made with municipalities.”

Having cars on the street in Europe has created buzz and drawn new customers. “The big difference is the visibility — the vehicles market themselves,” he said. “They have big decals on the side.”

Steinberg said DriveNow got off to a slow start in the United States so he approached two companies in Silicon Valley several months ago, asking to have DriveNow cars on their corporate campuses. Now, the program leaves cars on four corporate campuses where company employees have access to the vehicles, he said.

“We had a limited footprint in the city,” he said. “It was tough to compete, but now we are flying.”

About 50 percent of DriveNow’s business is corporate, he said.



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