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Having already launched the Care by Volvo subscription program, the Swedish-Chinese automotive brand wants to continue cramming feathers into its cap. It’s now launching a new mobility brand that sounds very similar to car-sharing services offered by numerous automakers and rental firms.
There could be an issue with the naming strategy, however. Volvo wants to call the company M, which is a letter of the alphabet that’s of particular interest for BMW. In case you’ve been in a coma for the last forty years, the German automaker has used the letter M (for Motorsport) to denote its performance division and affixes it to everything in its lineup with sporting pretensions. While it probably can’t claim ownership of all things relating to the mark, it’s definitely not going to be thrilled to see Volvo using it.
Of course, Volvo isn’t planning on using the symbol to identify high-performance models. That’s what Polestar is for, despite also being a separate brand. Instead, M will serve as the group’s global mobility operations, seeking to provide dependable, on-demand access to cars and services through a proprietary app.
It’s something a lot of other automakers and rental firms have already done. ZipCar, which is owned by Avis, has allowed customers to arrange short-term rentals since 2001. While largely impractical in rural areas, it’s been an ideal solution for some urbanites who don’t need daily access to an automobile but may find themselves occasionally wanting one. It’s also a relatively cheap way to gain access to a multitude of vehicle types.
Since then, ZipCar and similar rental-based car sharing services have exploded — forcing automakers to take notice. General Motors now runs its own rental firm, called Maven, while Daimler has Car2Go and BMW has DriveNow. Volvo seems intent on entering the fray as industry leaders continue expanding the auto business in every direction conceivable. Apparently, just being a automotive manufacturer is no longer enough.
“Volvo Cars is becoming more than just a car company. We recognize that urban consumers are rethinking traditional car ownership. M is part of our answer. We are evolving to become a direct-to-consumer services provider under our new mission ‘Freedom to Move’,” Håkan Samuelsson, Volvo Cars president and chief executive, said in a statement.
Sunfleet, the leading car sharing company in Sweden, originally existed as a collaboration between Volvo and Hertz in the late 1990s. The automaker said it and its 50,000 subscribers will be fully integrated into M in 2019. From there, it looks like Volvo hopes to take the M brand in a global direction.
The automaker also mentioned the service would do more than simply reserve a vehicle. Volvo said the app uses exclusive learning technology that asks users about their specific needs, instead of merely showing them where they can pick up a car. However, it’s unclear what services it will offer to set itself apart. Maybe these Volvos can be pre-ordered with snacks and an umbrella, while taking into account your favorite chip flavor and color of parasol.
For now, Stockholm will continue serving as M’s base of development. Volvo says a broader beta test will take place this autumn and lead to further announcements.
a version of this article first appeared on thetruthaboutcars.com