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A BMW i3 that is part of the ReachNow pilot program is parked in Seattle. (Sugar Shoots / Jules Frazier/BWM ReachNow)
A BMW i3 that is part of the ReachNow pilot program is parked in Seattle. (Sugar Shoots / Jules Frazier/BWM ReachNow)


Car-sharing is finally growing up, providing luxury options Add to ...

As any seven-year-old knows, sharing isn’t always easy or pleasant. It’s better to have your own toy/candy/iPad . Sharing sucks.

It’s the same when you’re an adult. Having your own car is wonderful: exciting, freeing, offering limitless possibilities and visions of open-ended road trips.

But, ahh yes, money. Paying for things also sucks. And so, sometimes, as an adult, you must concede that sharing is better because it makes financial sense. This is probably the reason you shared apartments with a succession of weird roommates in your twenties. It’s also what makes car-sharing services like ZipCar or car2go so tempting. With a membership to these services, you don’t need to pay for insurance, gas, car washes, new tires or oil changes. You pay to drive and that’s it.

But what if car sharing offered additional benefits beyond the financial? What if you could get a better car, or could choose from a lineup of better cars? A new wave of services are doing just that, making luxury cars part of the sharing economy.

Mercedes on-demand

Car2go is introducing the Mercedes CLA sedan and GLA SUV into its fleets in Toronto and Vancouver, starting in February, and Calgary and Montreal later this year. Car2go’s current fleet is made up primarily of those white-and-blue Smart fortwos you’ve probably seen parked around your city. But the company announced the majority of its fleet will be the new Mercedes models by the end of 2017.

The GLA is a sub-compact SUV which starts at $38,000. Luxury doesn’t come cheap, even when it’s this small.

“The addition of Mercedes-Benz vehicles into the car2go network certainly pushes our brand up-market,” says Paul DeLong, car2go’s North American CEO. “We’ve heard from car2go members who … need a larger car to accommodate their expanding families.”

Car2go users will have to pay an undisclosed premium to drive a Mercedes. Both new models have four doors, more trunk space, seating for five (albeit cramped) and luxuries such as all-wheel drive, rearview camera, collision warning, nav and heated seats.

BMW’s pilot program

BMW calls its ReachNow program a “premium car sharing service.” Members can drive a BMW 3 Series sedan, X1 SUV, the carbon-fibre electric i3, or various types of Mini. Street parking for ReachNow cars is free within a downtown “Home Area” zone.

Unfortunately, the program isn’t available in Canada. ReachNow is only in Seattle, Portland and Brooklyn. The company wants to expand to 10 cities in North America, but hasn’t said if any of those will be in Canada.

All ReachNow vehicles are charged the same rate: $0.49 (U.S.) per minute while driving, and $0.30 while parked if you make a stop. Cheaper long-term rates are also available should you want a car for a long-weekend. ReachNow will offer additional luxuries as well. Members will be able to have a car dropped off, have a car waiting at the airport, and book a car with a chauffeur. Eventually the service could become a mashup of Uber, car2go and a traditional rental. In Toronto, the convenience of being able to park for free on any downtown city street would be worth the price of admission.

Cadillac’s ultimate car-share

In January, Cadillac announced a subscription serviced called Book by Cadillac. For $1,500 (U.S.) per month, you can have any Caddy delivered when and where you want it. (Yes, including the manic, 640-horsepower CTS-V.)

Think of it like a lease except, instead of leasing one car, you’re leasing the entire lineup. You don’t have to pay for insurance, maintenance, or anything else – only gas. You can swap cars 18 times a year, free of charge, and keep them for as long as you like. Presumably, as new cars get added to Cadillac’s lineup, they’ll also be added to the Book service. Initially it will only be available in New York City and the surrounding area.

Cadillac is the first company to launch a subscription service, although Mercedes-Benz and BMW have talked about it.

Early days

The global car sharing market is expected to grow from 7.9-million people in 2015 to more than 36 million by 2025, according to a 2016 report from consulting firm Frost & Sullivan.

It’s still early days for car sharing and these new services are just a small sliver of the possibilities. Shared cars have the potential to reduce the number of vehicles clogging up city streets and highways, and get us all moving faster.

Sharing might not be so bad after all.

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