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BMW Challenges Uber With Its Own Ride-Booking Service

April 8, 2016
ReachNow’s chauffeur service will allow users to book drivers after a night out to ferry them home in a BMW car-sharing vehicle.  

BMW (IW 1000/31) plans to offer a ride-booking service in Seattle and then other U.S. cities, becoming the first luxury-car maker to go toe to toe with Uber Technologies Inc.

ReachNow’s chauffeur service will allow users to book drivers after a night out to ferry them home in a BMW car-sharing vehicle, the company said on April 8. It’s the German luxury-car maker’s first expansion into broader mobility services with its car-sharing network of vehicles that can be booked via an app and picked up a short walk away.

The services are set to “make life on the road easier for people in big cities,” said Peter Schwarzenbauer, who heads BMW AG’s Mini, Rolls-Royce and motorcycle brands as well as overseeing car sharing. ReachNow is about offering “mobility when it’s needed, from one single source.”

BMW will start the ReachNow service in Seattle with the classic free-floating car sharing that’s already in operation under the DriveNow banner in European cities, then expand with more options including the taxi-like pickup service later this year. The company said last month it was considering luxury ride-sharing, after a strategy review that put a broad range of mobility services at the center of its future business.

The Seattle fleet will have 370 autos, including i3 electric city cars and Mini vehicles as well as models from the BMW namesake brand. It’s a partnership with RideCell, a technology startup in which BMW has held a minority stake since 2014.

Services will include vehicle delivery for customers with a lot of luggage, seamless switching to a longer rental period for spontaneous trips and the option of renting out private vehicles, subject to technical tests, to a select group of contacts for a set amount of time.

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