By Heather Somerville
SAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) - General Motors' car-sharing program Maven, the auto giant's latest foray into alternative transportation services, has expanded into San Francisco, marking its ninth market since launching in January, the company announced Thursday.
Maven's entry into one of the nation's leading technology hubs puts it squarely in competition a number of car-sharing programs such as Zipcar and Getaround that are already popular in the city.
Maven's markets now include Boston, Chicago, Los Angeles, New York and Washington, D.C., among other cities. The quick growth signals General Motors' <GM.N> aggressive push to cater to millennials and urban professionals who do not want the burden of car ownership.
"Either GM spends money to convince someone who doesn't want a car to buy a car, or spends it getting into another business," said Dan Grossman, Maven's chief operating officer.
Maven buys cars from GM and pays for the maintenance, repair and gas. In addition to the revenue from the sale of cars to Maven, GM will reap the profits from Maven's car-sharing business. The cost of renting a car starts at $8 per hour.
The company touts its technological sophistication as an advantage over competitors such as Zipcar. Customers can reserve a car via an app and use their smartphone to unlock and start their vehicle. Grossman said more than 12,000 car reservations have been made to date.
While GM aims to appeal to drivers who do not want to own cars, the company also hopes Maven will introduce new car models - such as the all-electric Bolt - to customers who could be convinced to make a purchase.
GM earlier this year also launched a car loan program with ride-sharing service Lyft, allowing Lyft drivers to lease cars for a week at a time. GM invested $500 million in Lyft in January; it owns 9 percent of the startup.
Maven acquired patents from Sidecar, a San Francisco ride-hailing service that shut down last year.
(Reporting by Heather Somerville; Editing by Leslie Adler)