Volvo launches M car-sharing mobility brand
New initiative begins spring 2019 in Sweden and the U.S.
Although the company's official name is Volvo Car Group, we can envision a day when the word "Car" gets replaced by the word "Mobility." Should that day come, it got a few years closer with Volvo's launch of a new brand called M, that letter representing the buzzword in question and the new car-sharing service to launch next spring in Sweden and the U.S. Volvo CEO Håkan Samuelsson said, "We are evolving to become a direct-to-consumer services provider under our new mission 'Freedom to Move.'" The carmaker hasn't released many details yet. What we know is that M will be app-based, and Volvo's unique selling proposition for the service will be learning "its user's needs, preferences and habits, personalizing the customer relationship." Volvo has owned and run a car-sharing service called Sunfleet in Sweden since 1998. Sunfleet's 50,000 users of 1,700 available vehicles have generated 500,000 transactions per year. The data from that operation will serve as the basis for M's proprietary new "learning technology" that enhances personalization, and "asks users about their specific needs instead of merely informing them where they can pick up a car." The idea, according to the CEO of Volvo Car Mobility, is that M members enjoy a car-sharing service that is more like owning their own car. Sunfleet will be rolled into M, but Care by Volvo is a separate operation. The latter initiative is much more like owning a car; unlike other carmaker subscription services, Volvo doesn't let owners swap vehicles during the two-year subscription period. That's what M will be for, and a Volvo rep said the M fleet will include most Volvo models. That will also distinguish M from Sunfleet, which only provides a few of the crossovers. In addition to the new source of revenue, Volvo says it wants "more than 5 million direct consumer relationships by the middle of the next decade." Not only is there the need to keep up with rival automakers' car-sharing services like Maven, Car2Go, and DriveNow, but a KPMG study revealed that 59 percent of auto executives believe that by 2025, half of current car owners will want to own a car. Volvo says it will run a larger test of M this autumn in preparation for the spring 2019 launch. More such ideas could be on the way from Sweden even after M, the carmaker promising to introduce "a range of on-demand mobility solutions."