PARIS -- Contrary to the reputation of automaker mobility projects as unprofitable experiments, BMW's DriveNow car-sharing program is making money, the automaker's top marketer says.
"We're in 12 cities around the world now," Ian Robertson, BMW board member for sales and marketing, said in an interview at the auto show here. "The program is profitable, and the market is developing well. The utilization is two, three, four hours a day -- so that's about four times what the average is."
DriveNow, known as ReachNow in the U.S., has about 4,000 BMW and Mini vehicles in operation. It charges members by the minute for car use.
Mobility experiments may be trendy today, but they have a solid base in global population trends, Robertson said. BMW, which developed its BMW i lineup of electric-drive vehicles in a study of megacity growth, says huge metro areas will be inhospitable to private, single-occupant cars.
"Congestion isn't really going to stop anytime soon," he said. "If you are Beijing or Shanghai, you can only build so many orbital roads. They have six or seven.
"You have a situation in the urban environment where the utilization of the vehicle is going to move into a different arena."
Also, legislation is pushing automakers to offer zero emission vehicles. Robertson said BMW believes that private vehicle ownership will be part of the mix, but many other personal-transportation alternatives will exist.
"What you'll get is multimodal transport," he said. "It is likely to be shared. It is definitely connected. It is moving towards zero emissions. And ultimately you will have it autonomous.
"So the world ecosystem of mobility is shifting on its axis at the moment."