BMW clicks into gear in North London

BMW has joined forces with rental company Sixt and car-sharing platform DriveNow to launch a trial click-and-drive scheme in the London boroughs of Islington, Hackney and Haringey. The scheme will make a fleet of 250 BMWs available to drivers in the same way that “Boris Bikes” are available to cyclists in the capital.
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Image courtesy of Sixt And Sixt claims that it will make car sharing so cheap and convenient that “only the rich will buy cars” in the future. So just how does the new scheme work? Will it serve as a template for similar schemes across the country. Let’s take a closer look…

Smart moves

Motorists wanting to take advantage of the new London-based DriveNow scheme will use a smartphone app to locate, unlock and start the BMW 1 Series and Mini cars dotted around Islington, Haringey and Hackney. Their journeys will then be charged by the minute. And once they have reached their destination, they will be able to leave the vehicle in any on-street parking space – as long as it is within the three participating boroughs. This differentiates the scheme from rival car-sharing services such as Zipcar, where users must return the car to its starting position. DriveNow, which is already operating in German cities, is in talks with other London boroughs about expanding the service.

Fair shares for all?

Most people who live in cities only use their cars for a small percentage of the journeys they take every week. That’s why BMW believes car-sharing schemes will become increasingly popular in the years to come. The car manufacturer also hopes that this initiative will help it to reach a different type of driver. BMW board manager Peter Schwarzenbauer said: “The average age of our car buyers is mid 40s but the average age of a car sharing user is 32.”

Culture shock-absorbers

There is no doubt that signing-up to car sharing could dramatically cut costs for motorists living in urban areas. The question, however, is whether drivers are prepared to give up car ownership completely. Daimler’s Car2go car-sharing scheme, launched two years ago, had similar aims to this new joint venture from BMW and Sixt. But it has since been withdrawn after coming up against the “UK’s strong culture and tradition of private vehicle ownership”.

Uber alles?

The new London-based DriveNow scheme will also face competition from cut-price taxi ordering services such as Uber, although Mr Schwarzenbauer argues that there is room for both in the capital. “I see them as partners,” he said. “You might use one of our cars to drive to a restaurant and then use Uber to come home.” Or hail a cab, of course. What do you reckon? Would you give up your car and rely on a click-and-drive scheme? Let us know in the box below

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