BMW Turns to Tech Veteran to Head US Car-Sharing Service ReachNow – Fortune

Posted: Monday, May 09, 2016

BMW Group’s second attempt at a U.S.-based car-sharing service—this time with a new name, city, leadership, and technology platform —has captured 13,000 members since launching in Seattle just a month ago. Now it even has a CEO.

The German automaker named Steve Banfield to head its U.S.-based car-sharing service ReachNow. Instead of hiring someone from the automotive industry as it has in the past, BMW sought out an exec from the tech industry. The hire is another example of the automaker’s effort to resurrect its car-sharing service in the United States.

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Before joining ReachNow, Banfield was the chief marketing officer at real-time traffic data company Inrix. Banfield led Inrix into the smart parking market with the acquisition of ParkMe and oversaw the launch of an on-street parking prediction solution featuring the BMW i3. He has also held senior leadership roles at Sony, Microsoft, Paramount Pictures (Screenlife), Rightside, and RealNetworks. Last month, BMW named Sandra Phillips as chief customer officer. Jean-Francois (Jeff) Ganot is CFO.

In 2011, BMW and rental car company Sixt SE formed a joint venture car-sharing service in Berlin called DriveNow. While the service has had some success—by the end of 2015, it had 580,000 registered users throughout Europe—DriveNow’s entry into the U.S. market didn’t go so smoothly.

The company, which was led by a longtime BMW exec, set up shop in San Francisco in 2012 and soon discovered that its business model—a free-floating service allowing vehicles to be picked up and left anywhere within a designated operating area—was in direct conflict with parking and car-sharing regulations in the city. The service shutdown on November 2, 2015.

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This time around, BMW altered the service to make it more flexible and broader. Its DriveNow joint venture partner Sixt is not involved with ReachNow. BMW is also using a new software platform from San Francisco-based startup RideCell, the same company in which BMW’s venture capital arm just invested.

More than 13,000 people in Seattle have downloaded the ReachNow app and used it to take one of the company’s 370 BMW 3 Series, BMW i3, and MINI vehicles out on the road. ReachNow still has a ways to go before it approaches rival car2go’s numbers. Car2go, a car-sharing service owned by Daimler, has about 75,000 registered users and 750 two-seater Smart Fortwo vehicles in Seattle, according to the company.


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