Skip to main content
The Globe and Mail
Support Quality Journalism
The Globe and Mail
First Access to Latest
Investment News
Collection of curated
e-books and guides
Inform your decisions via
Globe Investor Tools
Just$1.99
per week
for first 24 weeks

Enjoy unlimited digital access
Enjoy Unlimited Digital Access
Get full access to globeandmail.com
Just $1.99 per week for the first 24 weeks
Just $1.99 per week for the first 24 weeks
var select={root:".js-sub-pencil",control:".js-sub-pencil-control",open:"o-sub-pencil--open",closed:"o-sub-pencil--closed"},dom={},allowExpand=!0;function pencilInit(o){var e=arguments.length>1&&void 0!==arguments[1]&&arguments[1];select.root=o,dom.root=document.querySelector(select.root),dom.root&&(dom.control=document.querySelector(select.control),dom.control.addEventListener("click",onToggleClicked),setPanelState(e),window.addEventListener("scroll",onWindowScroll),dom.root.removeAttribute("hidden"))}function isPanelOpen(){return dom.root.classList.contains(select.open)}function setPanelState(o){dom.root.classList[o?"add":"remove"](select.open),dom.root.classList[o?"remove":"add"](select.closed),dom.control.setAttribute("aria-expanded",o)}function onToggleClicked(){var l=!isPanelOpen();setPanelState(l)}function onWindowScroll(){window.requestAnimationFrame(function() {var l=isPanelOpen(),n=0===(document.body.scrollTop||document.documentElement.scrollTop);n||l||!allowExpand?n&&l&&(allowExpand=!0,setPanelState(!1)):(allowExpand=!1,setPanelState(!0))});}pencilInit(".js-sub-pencil",!1); // via darwin-bg var slideIndex = 0; carousel(); function carousel() { var i; var x = document.getElementsByClassName("subs_valueprop"); for (i = 0; i < x.length; i++) { x[i].style.display = "none"; } slideIndex++; if (slideIndex> x.length) { slideIndex = 1; } x[slideIndex - 1].style.display = "block"; setTimeout(carousel, 2500); }
Coronavirus information
Coronavirus information
The Zero Canada Project provides resources to help you make the most of staying home.
Visit the hub

GM shut down its Maven car-sharing service earlier this month, citing the impact of the coronavirus pandemic.

The Associated Press

Since the COVID-19 pandemic hit, there have been a spate of high-profile closures among car-sharing services in North America.

General Motors Co., BMW AG and Daimler AG have all recently decided they don’t want to be in the business of operating fleets of publicly shared vehicles, at least not in North America. Zipcar is pulling its shared cars out of British Columbia. Meanwhile, Communauto and Turo both say their users are making fewer trips in shared vehicles as a result of the pandemic.

Despite what it may look like, this is not the end of the road for car sharing; it’s more like a speed bump for an industry still finding its way.

Story continues below advertisement

GM shuts down Maven car-sharing service, citing coronavirus

GM’s car-sharing division, Maven, was sick long before the coronavirus hit. Last year, Maven pulled out of eight cities in North America, including New York and Chicago. Now, after having suspended operations in March due to COVID-19, Maven is shutting down for good.

BMW AG and Daimler AG announced plans to shut down their North American car-sharing service – Share Now – late last year, citing the volatile state of the mobility industry and, “the rising infrastructure complexities facing North American transportation today – such as a rapidly evolving competitive mobility landscape, the lack of necessary infrastructure to support new technology (including electric vehicle car share) and rising operating costs.”

Earlier this month, Zipcar, which is owned by Avis Budget Group, announced it is pulling its shared car fleet out of B.C. as of May 1. In an e-mail to customers, the company cited “local insurance regulations” as a reason it was leaving.

Due to the pandemic, Enterprise CarShare vehicles are unavailable until further notice, although rental cars are still available through Enterprise Rent-A-Car.

Ups and downs

Before the pandemic, more people in Canada were driving shared vehicles than ever, according to a recent study by researchers at the University of California, Berkeley. (By contrast, in the U.S., the number of shared vehicles has declined but membership has increased, albeit at a slowing pace.)

“The overall trajectory in recent years has been slowing growth in the market,” said Susan Shaheen, one of the authors of the study, and co-director of the Transportation Sustainability Research Center at the University of California, Berkeley.

The pandemic neither caused nor accelerated the demise of Maven and Share Now, Shaheen said in an e-mail. Their demise, and slowing growth in the industry overall, was a result of increased competition from Uber, Lyft, shared e-scooters and e-bikes, as well as “increased financial pressure from local governments that have imposed high parking and permit fees for operation.”

Story continues below advertisement

Some 94 car-sharing programs have tried to grab a slice of the North American market since 1998, but only 40 of those are still operational, according to the Berkeley study. Some companies have fared better than others.

Turo, a platform that lets people rent out their own cars, says it had seen steady year-over-year growth before COVID-19. “As of February 2020, Turo had over 850,000 members in Canada and 32,000 cars listed,” a spokesperson for the company said. Since Turo is a peer-to-peer business platform, it doesn’t have high overhead costs such as car purchases, car maintenance, insurance and parking.

Communauto is the oldest continuously-operating car sharing company on the continent, having launched in Quebec City in 1994. The Montreal-based firm began turning real profits after seven or eight years in business, and membership has been growing steadily at around 15 per cent per year, said Marco Viviani, the company’s vice-president of strategic development.

Due to COVID-19, Communauto has seen the number of trips taken in its cars drop by 60 to 80 per cent compared to this time last year, Viviani said. “We think we will bounce back rather rapidly,” he added.

“This pandemic is giving [Maven and Share Now] opportunity to do what they would have done anyway,” Viviani said. “If you’re launching a car-sharing service for other reasons, not as a transportation service, it probably won’t work.” Car-rental companies and automakers largely saw sharing services as diversification to guard against market shifts or as complimentary to their existing businesses of renting and selling cars, he added.

Most research shows that when implemented well – something that’s not easy for cities or operators to do – car sharing can reduce both traffic congestion and pollution while increasing transit and bicycle ridership, and makes the freedom of the open road more accessible for everyone.

Story continues below advertisement

Car sharing can also reduce the need for some families to own a second car, or, in other cases, the need to own any car at all. It’s one of the few solutions that can be implemented relatively quickly to improve our transportation network. Despite this speed bump, car sharing is still a road worth going down.

Shopping for a new car? Check out the Globe Drive Build and Price Tool to see the latest discounts, rebates and rates on new cars, trucks and SUVs. Click here to get your price.

Stay on top of all our Drive stories. We have a Drive newsletter covering car reviews, innovative new cars and the ups and downs of everyday driving. Sign up for the weekly Drive newsletter, delivered to your inbox for free. Follow us on Instagram, @globedrive.

Report an error Editorial code of conduct
Due to technical reasons, we have temporarily removed commenting from our articles. We hope to have this fixed soon. Thank you for your patience. If you are looking to give feedback on our new site, please send it along to feedback@globeandmail.com. If you want to write a letter to the editor, please forward to letters@globeandmail.com.

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff. Non-subscribers can read and sort comments but will not be able to engage with them in any way. Click here to subscribe.

If you would like to write a letter to the editor, please forward it to letters@globeandmail.com. Readers can also interact with The Globe on Facebook and Twitter .

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff. Non-subscribers can read and sort comments but will not be able to engage with them in any way. Click here to subscribe.

If you would like to write a letter to the editor, please forward it to letters@globeandmail.com. Readers can also interact with The Globe on Facebook and Twitter .

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff.

We aim to create a safe and valuable space for discussion and debate. That means:

  • Treat others as you wish to be treated
  • Criticize ideas, not people
  • Stay on topic
  • Avoid the use of toxic and offensive language
  • Flag bad behaviour

Comments that violate our community guidelines will be removed.

Read our community guidelines here

Discussion loading ...

To view this site properly, enable cookies in your browser. Read our privacy policy to learn more.
How to enable cookies