BMW is shutting down its “corporate fleet” pilot in Seattle, but the company continues to explore new ways to expand its ReachNow car-sharing service to enterprise clients.
ReachNow launched its first “corporate fleet” program this past March at the 8th & Olive office building, giving 1,000 employees who work in the building access to an exclusive on-demand fleet of BMW 3 Series and MINI Clubman ReachNow vehicles, 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
ReachNow CEO Steve Banfield told GeekWire that the service didn’t meet the needs of those employees as much as BMW anticipated. That’s mainly because the vehicles were required to be driven back to the building if an employee rented a car from the dedicated fleet and took a trip.
Given that requirement, many employees opted to rent a ReachNow vehicle off the street like a normal user — there are typically several around the 8th & Olive building — giving them the flexibility to drive somewhere and not have to return the car back to its original location.
“The round-trip model didn’t make sense for them,” Banfield said.
Now, instead of offering a dedicated fleet attached to a building, Banfield said he’s talking to businesses around Seattle about alternative ways to implement a corporate service.
“At our heart we are a consumer product, but at the same time, there are lots of companies looking for innovative ways to enhance their employees’ lives and how they move in and around the city,” he said.
One potential idea is to let employers offer special ReachNow corporate rates to employees, Banfield noted.
ReachNow, which is also piloting a “Residential Fleet” service at a Manhattan apartment complex, isn’t the only one thinking of how technology can help workers get around town, particularly as traffic continues to rise in cities like Seattle. Numerous startups, including some in Seattle, have tried to offer private shuttles that get employees to and from work. Some of the biggest companies employ their own fleets of buses to drive employees to work; Microsoft’s Connector busses are well-known throughout the Seattle area, and Amazon launched a pilot shuttle program for its employees last year.
Ford-owned shuttle service Chariot just launched in Seattle and is targeting companies who can set up and fund routes between employees’ homes, major transit hubs and the office.
Uber and Lyft, meanwhile, each have carpooling options, and this month Lyft launched a test of its own shuttle service in San Francisco and Chicago.
ReachNow last year made its worldwide debut in Seattle, its first location, before launching in Portland and Brooklyn. It has 50,000 members across the three cities; in Seattle, BMW has a 700-vehicle fleet, up from 370 at launch. Users can reserve and pay for a ride with the ReachNow app, and park the vehicle in any city spot within the “Home Area.”
ReachNow, which competes with Car2go and Zipcar, also just rolled out its new Uber and Lyft competitor, called Ride, in Seattle. Banfield said BMW is “really pleased” with the initial reception to the service. He also expects a record number of airport trips to ReachNow’s facility at Sea-Tac this holiday weekend.
“Our ecosystem is working really well,” Banfield said. “That message of being able to have solutions — whether it’s really short-term rentals by the minute or by the hour, having a longer-term rental you can keep over a long weekend, or being able to call a car and have it drive you just about anywhere — all of that is coming together and we see people using all of those together depending on what their needs are at any given point.”