To read the first part of our conversation with Brent Taylor, click here.
To read the third installment of our conversation, click here.
In the second installment of a 45-minute interview with Maven New York General Manager Brent Taylor, he discloses everything from how the car-sharing service compliments GM’s existing dealer network, how the customer vetting process happens, what OnStar does for Maven, and even how the platform is shaping future product development.
GM Authority: Do you guys see yourselves as being a disruptor to the overall dealer franchise network?
Brent Taylor: Not at all. We actually see it as a really nice synergy in the fact that the car-sharing product and app-based mobility products are something that caters to a different generation, and one that may not have been exposed to GM products. So now we’ve got people who traditionally may not have had a lot of exposure to the line here. While they may be NYC residents, one day they may move up to Westchester and they’ll think about buying a vehicle, that experience that they had with Maven is going to be a real determining factor, we think, with their vehicle purchase.
GMA: Because it’s an in-house ride-sharing, and because Maven is really focused on controlling the experience – the Maven cars that I’ve seen have all seem to be pretty loaded. Pretty decked out, as opposed to a ZipCar or even the traditional rental service where they just offer the stripped models. How does that affect overall inventory, overhead, maintenance… stuff like that? From having the highest-end models versus, say, just doing it the way ZipCar does it?
BT: It’s one of the unique qualities that Maven brings to market, being the OEM controls the actually fleet makes, and can really cater and determine its manufacturing production based on what the needs are for Maven. The experience that you talked about is true from the compact vehicle to the Escalade. If you get a Chevy Cruze for $9 an hour, or you get a Cadillac Escalade for $20 an hour, you’re still going to get, leather seats, 4G Wi-Fi, On-Star, satellite radio, and basically all the bells and whistles (on the Cruze). So, unlike some of the traditional car-sharing and car rental models that you’ve seen in the past where they kind of don’t control the fleet, we think that’s where the value add for the customer is. To say: “I’d rather spend my $9 an hour at Maven and have a great drive experience as well as the mobility factor.”
GMA: What about the vetting process of the drivers, and just making sure that the vehicles are in trusted, safe hands? That nothing will either come of them or that they can be trusted with a vehicle? Because if you go to the rental service, there tends to be some face-to-face at least. I have the app on my phone all I’ve got to do is submit my payment method and my driver’s license…
BT: Once you submit your driver’s license, obviously you’ll put a credit card on file, which we’ll only use on your trips. But your driver’s license is run through that local state’s DMV to make sure that it’s active, and I think that there’s a certain threshold where at one point the risk is too averse for Maven, as far as points, or whatever it may be. But that’s generally the vetting process, and really it’s the future of offering the mobility product. So, if there’s, say, a customer that gets a car and maybe treats it a little rougher than somebody else, we’re willing to learn from that and find out how to adjust our practices, but for the most part our customers are great.
GMA: You guys aren’t doing background checks or any criminal record checks, or anything like that?
BT: No, we’re not running your credit. We’re not checking checking [criminal history], that’s none of our business. But for the most part people with a valid driver’s license and credit cards are generally good people.
GMA: Have you guys had any experiences with theft, or anything like that?
BT: Each market has had growing pains. Learning from that – from a company that didn’t traditionally do these transactions. There’s a bit of risk management that has to be employed in the Maven platform. And very quickly the company has taken those steps and deployed those counter-measures to make sure that our assets a) are returned and b) are returned in good shape. Every once in a while we’ll have something go awry, but otherwise I would say it’s the 98/2 rule. So we’re doing fairly well with our current practices.
GMA: Are the countermeasures beyond the scope of what OnStar currently offers with vehicle tracking and stolen vehicle assistance, and things like that?
BT: Well, the relationship with OnStar is more based on the customer experience. OnStar’s a resource for the customer and that’s the way it’s supposed deployed. As far as the telematics, OnStar helps us to know when a vehicle needs to be maintained, what the oil life is left on the vehicle, and for GM as a whole organization OnStar is giving us data on basic utilization standards. As far as from a risk-management perspective, we rely on our own underwriting in the beginning relationship with the customer to make sure that –
GMA: Contractual stuff?
BT: Just with signing up on the app, running the driver’s license, making sure that the credit card links up to that person, we find that those steps have really allowed us to-
GMA: -Weed it out of most of it-
BT: -Right, and once you’ve been in practice a while you know what to look for. What’s a red flag. If the credit card doesn’t belong to this person, obviously there’s a problem there. The company has really learned how to direct and to implement those risk-management measures.
GMA: How are you guys managing the data? Are you guys keeping it internally for research purposes? Marketing purposes? Are you selling it to 3rd parties?
BT: No, there’s a strict rule on how the OnStar data is used. What we’re doing with the OnStar data is looking at utilization trends basically. We’re not sitting in the car with you while you’re on that trip. Specific telematic stuff I would kick over to Ty (Maven spokesperson) and he can get you over on the back-end. But no, really for the purposes of Maven it’s all just utilization trends and miles driven.
GMA: What about the competition? Who do you guys consider to be your closest rivals? How do they compare in size and scale to you? I know you guys are still getting ramped up and a lot of the guys, like ZipCar, are pretty scaled a this point. Do you look at their markets? And do you see that maybe there’s a lot of overbooked vehicles, and you know that we need to come here because there’s demand for it? Are you guys strategized based on how well the competition is doing in regions?
BT: Well, really Maven kind of fills in the gaps between some of those traditional models. So, we don’t think that there’s anything like it (Maven) in the market. We kind of bridge between car sharing, car rental, and we have our partnership with Uber and Lyft where we’re actually providing product. There’s Maven Express Drive where we’re actually providing vehicles to Lyft drivers to operate so that they don’t have to undertake that capital (aka their own vehicle) that is involved with it. “Hey, do I want to try being a Lyft driver? Well maybe I’ll go with Maven,” and we find out that a lot of those folks come back and they stay in the vehicle ‘cause we’re basically covering insurance and maintenance, which is huge. So, really it’s a very flexible mobility service that kind of bridges a lot of those lines. Sometimes we have our Maven Reserve product, which is a monthly rental and still an app-based program. So instead of going into a brick-and-mortar rental car place where you’ve got somebody trying to sell you insurance and you’re kind of held captive in there – you’re still only talking to your phone, and your phone’s talking to the car. So, really we think Maven is very unique in the market, and that’s kind of the way we’re approaching the business; let’s do something that hasn’t been done.
Shortly after this interview, Maven Gig was announced.
GMA: And being what hasn’t been done is the in-house control of the experience?
BT: It’s a dedicated Maven team. OnStar helps us with our customer issues, so basically all within the GM family, and our fleet comes from the product line. So really a great way to introduce people to that line.
GMA: Is Maven influencing future product now?
BT: Absolutely, we think that Maven will influence future product based on those trends, based on how many miles people are driving when they’re using vehicles. GM’s main strategy is just to read miles driven. So, whether or not those are owned or leased or shared, just making sure that GM is the provider.