Well, this is weird.
Earlier this year, General Motors invested $500 million in ride-sharing service Lyft. Two months later, GM said that it would rent cars to prospective Lyft drivers for cheap--in some cases, even for free.
Now, the automaker is making a similar offer to people who want to work for Lyft's biggest competitor, Uber--at least for short periods of time.
The cars up for grabs will be provided by Maven, GM's Zipcar-ish car-sharing subsidiary. Registered Uber drivers can rent cars from Maven's fleet of GM vehicles for $179 per week, which includes insurance and unlimited mileage. Renters are free to use the vehicles for personal use when they're not Ubering complete strangers around town.
The program will begin as a 90-day pilot in--where else?--San Francisco, featuring Chevrolet models like the Cruze, Malibu, and Trax.
For GM, this Maven/Uber partnership could be a big win. The automaker is essentially offering extended test drives in GM vehicles, and we'd be truly surprised if renters weren't offered some kind of break should they choose to purchase the rides they've been borrowing. In other words, not only does this new program broaden GM's portfolio of mobility offerings by strengthening the Maven network, but it could also boost conventional sales.
For consumers--especially those who live in urban areas with abundant ride-sharing options--this could also be a great thing. It will almost certainly pump more vehicles into the Uber network, which means service will be even speedier.
For Uber and Lyft drivers, the news isn't quite so stellar. It will boost competition for passengers and almost certainly reduce drivers' income. (Then again, we can't say that drivers' prospects were too rosy even before GM's announcement.)
And for Lyft, the news may be worst of all. We haven't read the company's agreement with GM, but we have a hunch that Lyft signed on the dotted line because it believed that doing so would give it a significant leg-up in Lyft's battle against Uber. GM hasn't reneged on its agreement, per se, but its allegiance to Lyft doesn't seem quite as firm as it once did.