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The Ride: General Motors expands car rental program to gig workers in LA

With a family to support, and a set of wheels to help him do it, Arthur Ortega is like a lot of ride-hail drivers. Looking for some extra cash, he signed up for Lyft, using his personal car.

In a week, he says he racks up 500 to 600 miles, depending on how much he works. That’s usually about 25 hours of towing passengers, says the 34-year-old father of two.  Ortega lives in South Pasadena and drives a Nissan Sentra he originally bought for personal use.

But now, Ortega says, "I’m really concerned about the wear and tear on my car because, I mean, eventually, something’s gonna break or get ruined."

It’s for drivers like Ortega that General Motors is launching a new service in L.A. today. It’s called Maven Gig. And it allows drivers to rent cars by the week for a flat fee, with unlimited miles, insurance and maintenance included.

“These guys can do 1,000 miles a week on a car, so this is like tailor made for folks that earn their money in these on-demand platforms," says Jeff Shields, west coast regional manager for Maven.

GM already offers a similar program called Express Drive. It lets ride-hail drivers rent GM cars by the week through Lyft. Maven Gig broadens its scope, through formal partnerships with delivery services GrubHub and Instacart, the moving app Roadie and, of course, ride-hails, including kid-friendly HopSkipDrive.

It's not just for side hustles. Anyone can rent through Maven Gig. Drivers don't need to prove they're doing gig work, Shields says.

Here’s how it goes. Download the Maven app. Sign up and use a smart phone to find and reserve a car, then use the phone to get into the car and drive away. No key is required.

Maven Gig was launched three months ago in San Diego. It's a companion service to GM’s Maven City, which lets drivers rent vehicles by the hour, day or month; the fuel is free but the miles are limited.

Gig turns that around. The miles are unlimited but drivers have to pay for the fuel — unless they drive electric. Book one of Maven Gig’s 100 Bolt EVs, and Maven throws in an RFID card for free refills through EVGo. By the week, a Bolt EV costs $247, including taxes. The Chevrolet Cruze, $204.

That’s a lot, but so is owning a car. The American Automobile Assn. says the average weekly cost of owning and operating a medium sedan is $166.

"Statistics show that there’s gonna be thousands of folks in the sharing economy in the near future, right now," Shields says. "And so we just believe there’s a whole demographic of folks that we can provide vehicles to give them the convenience and flexibility to kind of earn money on their terms. It makes sense for GM to be in that ride share space and connect with a demographic and users that maybe we wouldn’t otherwise; 78 percent of our users are Millennials."

The overall trend for Millennials and up-and-coming Generation Z is less and less car ownership — more of a car-lite or even car-free lifestyle, even in a traditionally car-centric city like L.A., says Rebecca Lindland, executive analyst for Kelley Blue Book. KBB is owned by another company offering a similar weekly car rental service. Cox Automotive is piloting something called FlexDrive. It offers cars from a variety of auto makers for $159 per week, including insurance and maintenance. But it's currently only available in Atlanta, Austin and Cherry Hill, New Jersey.

Other companies are getting in on short-term car rentals too, like BMW with its ReachNow pilot in Seattle, Portland and Brooklyn, and Hertz Rent-a-Car. It partnered with Uber and offers weekly rentals so drivers can work hard, but their personal cars don’t have to suffer.

Back here in LA, Lyft driver Arthur Ortega has already put about 20,000 miles on his Nissan, and he hasn’t even done ride hail for a year. Still, he's not so sure about Maven Gig.

"Yes and no. For me to say no, I pay only $300 a month for the car, so that saves me money," he says. "$800 that I would probably pay, I could fix the car."