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BMW sets up car-sharing service in Seattle

ReachNow allows users to book BMW i3s and Mini Coopers, among others

Published: April 9, 2016, 5:30 PM
Updated: April 29, 2018, 12:52 PM

ReachNow i3

BMW has set up its own car-sharing service to give city-dwellers an alternative not only to owning a car or using cabs, but also for a growing percentage of the populace that is using Uber.

Following a pilot program, ReachNow is starting operations in Seattle (where the start-up will also set up headquarters for North America), with 370 cars in the city limits and plans to expand to the airport by June to give members greater flexibility. The program is also hoping to expand to two other cities in 2016 and seven other North American cities in the near future, though a timeline and locations have not yet been announced.

The program prides itself on its quick registration, which allows subscribers to take pictures of their credit cards (similar to what some banks are already doing with cheque deposits) and claims to have users registered and ready to go within minutes.

“With this service, we are building up on Drive Now, our extremely successful European business model, and bringing it up to a new level in the U.S.,” said Peter Schwarzenbauer — member of the Board of Management of BMW AG and responsible for MINI, BMW Motorrad, Rolls-Royce, After Sales and Mobility Services — at the program’s launch. “Seattle is an innovative, internationally-oriented city, which makes it the perfect location to launch these services.”

BMW says it chose Seattle for the program’s launch and its headquarters because of its openness to greener mobility services, as well as its rank as the third most electric-vehicle friendly city in the US (according to charging network company ChargePoint).

“Seattle residents are demanding more transportation options, and car sharing is a convenient way to avoid the expense of owning your own vehicle,” said Mayor Ed Murray. “BMW’s car sharing service also complements our strategy to promote the use of electric vehicles across the city. As we grow our transit networks, we look forward to expanding car sharing as another great option to get around Seattle.”

“Seattle residents are demanding more transportation options, and car sharing is a convenient way to avoid the expense of owning your own vehicle,” said Mayor Ed Murray. “BMW’s car sharing service also complements our strategy to promote the use of electric vehicles across the city. As we grow our transit networks, we look forward to expanding car sharing as another great option to get around Seattle.”

ReachNow car booking

The way it works is that after downloading the ReachNow app (in Apple or Android stores) and registering (at a 1-time cost of $39 US, though the fee is waived as part of the introductory offer), users can simply search and reserve the nearest vehicle. After using the vehicle, it can simply be returned to any available parking spot, including free parking at any metered spot or on any residential parking area.

ReachNow is seen as a direct competitor to Mercedes’ Car2Go program that puts Smart cars in various locations around a city to allow members to book the nearest cars online and simply show up, swipe a membership card and go. However, BMW insists its program (which uses i3 electric hatchbacks, Mini Coopers and even 3 Series sedans) is considerably more Premium than Car2Go, which prides itself on offering affordable, basic urban transportation alternatives.

“Our customers rightly expect uncomplicated and fast solutions to their individual mobility needs, especially in metropolitan regions,” added Schwarzenbauer. “This is why we are supplementing our classic business model with additional services that make life on the road easier for people in big cities. I am pleased that with the establishment of the ReachNow brand, we are able to offer our customers in Seattle “on-demand mobility” – mobility when it’s needed, from one single source.”

There is no denying the car choice will be more conducive to using a vehicle for chores, instead of just getting from point A to point B. Ever tried to fit a piece of furniture in a Fortwo? Even one from IKEA, still in a box?

But there is more to the BMW service. Members can request the vehicle be delivered to them at a specified time and location, they can easily and quickly extend the period of time with the car through the app, it will allow Mini Cooper owners to rent out their personal vehicles, and it will also allow them to book a chauffeured vehicle for those times when they don’t wish to drive.

Vehicles can be booked at a rate of $0.49 per minute of driving ($0.41, as part of the introductory offer) and $0.30 for parked time. Fees are capped at $50 for three hours, $80 per 12 hours and $110 for up to 24 hours.