General Motors is bringing new meaning to the word general, and I’m not talking about getting Arnold Schwarzenegger to dress up as a military officer (that was actually the game Mobile Strike). No, GM wants to make their cars more available to the General Public. As people continue to move into dense urban centers and eschew car ownership for public transportation and ride sharing, auto manufacturers have struggled to adapt. For many, it just doesn’t make sense to own a car in a city, especially when, on average, cars sit idly for 96% of their lives. Although this trend could spell doom for carmakers, for GM, it drove innovation.
Last month, GM unveiled Maven, a new carsharing service à la Zipcar and City Car Share. In addition to providing a fleet of usable cars parked around Ann Arbor, Michigan (the college town GM chose for Maven’s test drive), the program will also introduce a peer-to-peer service in Germany that allows people to share their privately owned cars. Maven plans to test more ideas at several of GM’s campuses around the world. For a company that filed for bankruptcy in 2009, this adaptation and experimentation seems pretty savvy.
And savvy is what the name Maven is all about. A maven is an expert – someone who has special knowledge or experience, or is remarkably skilled in a particular field. Interestingly, the word originates from the Yiddish word for “one who understands” and it didn’t enter English until the 1960s. Another Germanic word that didn’t make it to English until the 20th century? Uber. Is Maven taking a subtle etymological stab at the biggest name in transportation technology? Probably not, but it’s an interesting coincidence nonetheless.
Maven has a confident tonality. The central “v” suggests speed and flow, which are of course quite relevant messages. And while the name doesn’t have any gender-specific meanings, I get some connotations of feminine finesse and style, perhaps from its frequent usage in the fashion and modeling space. Maven is also notable in that unlike Lyft, Zipcar, and Uber, it resonates more as a customer identity than a company identity. The idea of empowering the user to become an expert at going anywhere is understated, yet powerfully differentiating.
The industry of getting from A to B is in an unpredictable state of flux. As we’ve already seen with Google’s autonomous cars, sitting behind a wheel may soon become a thing of the past. But as the options for transportation grow, travelers are faced with an embarrassment of riches, one that requires that we either become mavens or obsolete. When you look at it that way, the choice is easy.
General Motors is bringing new meaning to the word ‘general,’ and I’m not talking about getting Arnold Schwarzenegger to dress up as a military officer (that was actually the game Mobile Strike). No, GM wants to make their cars more available to the General Public.