NEW YORK (TheStreet) -- The growth of ride-sharing services like Uber and Lyft is spurring automakers to think deeply and creatively about the future of car ownership, especially in cities, and how they might be forced to adjust.
Bayerische Motoren Werke (BAMXY) -- BMW to most -- introduced DriveNow that lets subscribers pay for occasional use of company-owned BMWs in select cities. BMW said it's extending the program to its MINI line of automobiles. Ford (F), Toyota (TM) and General Motors (GM) are among the automakers that are experimenting with the concept.
BMW initiated DriveNow in 2011 in German cities, then later in London and San Francisco. The automaker said DriveNow has 450,000 users and is profitable.
DriveNow owns BMWs -- electric models in San Francisco -- which subscribers can locate via app, rent and then return to a space reserved for the company. The MINI plan will allow MINI owners to use the same app to rent and share the proceeds of the transaction with users.
"The idea behind Airbnb, to offer up private property for wider usage, was the inspiration behind the idea of offering a car-sharing option for Mini," said Peter Schwarzenbauer, BMW's board member for the Mini brand, to Reuters.
Over the past five years, BMW shares have gained 74%, outpacing Germany's DAX stock market index, which gained 53%.