(Corrects headline and first two paragraphs to clarify that Maven is not replacing CarUnity in Germany)
By Bernie Woodall
DETROIT Jan 21 General Motors Co said on Thursday that it was starting a car-sharing service in the United States as it joins at least two other automakers testing the market for consumers who want to borrow vehicles rather than own them.
The service, called Maven, will start with a small fleet offered to the general public in Ann Arbor, Michigan.
Also, the Maven brand will incorporate some existing car-sharing programs. They include a service in Germany that will keep the CarUnity name and operate as it has since mid-2015.
Maven, a Yiddish word for expert, will expand to other cities this year, but GM would not say how quickly or by how much. Julia Steyn, head of GM's urban mobility programs, said that depends on consumer.
GM President Dan Ammann said Maven is not ride-sharing which is offered by Lyft Inc, in which GM invested $500 million.
In ride-sharing, customers summon cars and someone drives them. In car-sharing, customers use a smart phone app or other device to access cars and drive themselves.
Ammann would not reveal how much the company is investing or how many GM cars will be in the Maven fleet to start or down the line.
Use of a small car starts at as little as $6 per hour or $12 per hour for a large car, according to website MavenDrive.com.
GM's Maven, like the efforts by rival automakers, aims to convince skeptical investors that auto industry incumbents can move into new markets such as car sharing instead of waiting for upstarts to undermine their franchises.
Carmakers mobility service ventures will have to compete with well-capitalized challengers such as Uber Technologies Inc , the ride-hailing company, or ventures that might be launched by Silicon Valley technology powers Apple Inc or Alphabet Inc.
Ammann said worldwide between 5 million and 6 million people use ride sharing and car sharing, a figure he expects to expand four- or five-fold by the end of the decade.
Daimler AG's Mercedes-Benz luxury brand has grouped ride sharing and ride hailing ventures under the "Mercedesme" brand, which like GM's Maven aggregates a smartphone app, access to short- and longer-term rentals as well as access to taxis and mass transit. Ford Motor Co last week launched the FordPass brand as an umbrella for mobility services. (Reporting by Bernie Woodall; Editing by Lisa Shumaker)