News Article | March 15, 2016
Lyft and GM, under its car-sharer brand "Maven," will launch a short-term car rental service for Lyft drivers in Chicago later this month, reports Re/code. The ultimate aim of the service is to enable more people to become Lyft drivers. The rental program is a partnership between Lyft and GM, which has invested $500 million in Lyft. GM will maintain a fleet of Chevy Equinoxes in the Chicago area for the rental program, while both companies will cover the cost of insurance together. Lyft drivers will be be able to rent a vehicle based on a three-tiered pricing structure based on how many rides they complete each week. If a driver completes fewer than 40 rides a week, the driver pays $99 per week for the vehicle, plus 20 cents per mile driven. If a driver completes between 40 and 64 rides a week, the driver only pays the $99 weekly fee. And if a driver completes 65 or more rides a week, the driver pays no rental fee at all. "This is geared toward the millions of Americans across the country [who] don’t have access to a vehicle that is qualified to drive for the platform," Lyft cofounder and CEO John Zimmer told Re/code. "This solves a major component of it that probably isn’t possible without the type of relationship we have with General Motors, so it becomes a big differentiator." After Chicago, Lyft and GM plan to roll out the car rental service in Boston, Washington, D.C., and Baltimore, though no timeline was given for those launches. Zimmer is reportedly confident in the success of the initiative because in Chicago alone there have been 60,000 first-time Lyft applicants without access to a vehicle that meet Lyft’s qualifications. Across all four cities where the rental program will eventually roll out, 150,000 applicants in total currently lack access to vehicles that meet Lyft’s qualifications. Besides the driver car-rental program, Lyft and GM are also working on another major initiative: an on-demand network of autonomous GM vehicles on the Lyft platform, says Re/code. However, that program is still a few years down the road.
News Article | January 6, 2016
CES is happening this week, where all sorts of companies will trot out all sorts of gizmos. But the biggest tech news to come out so far happened in Detroit, not Las Vegas. America’s largest car company made a substantial bet that, sometime in the near future, no one is going to own cars anymore. General Motors is investing $500 million in ridesharing company and Uber competitor Lyft, with the two express directives behind that money being to kill the very idea of car ownership. In the near term, GM will help Lyft set up car rental hubs so that people who do not own cars can go drive other people around. In the long term, Uber and GM will develop robo taxis that don’t need any driver at all. This approach to the future of transportation isn’t a new idea at all—it’s no secret that the future of cars is driverless and automated, and it’s no secret that Uber and Lyft believe ridesharing is the future—but a substantial investment coming from one of the Big Three American automakers is as clear a signal as there is that very soon we may not own cars. GM has obvious incentive to diversify as it’d like to prevent the kind of disaster that led to the whole 2008 bankruptcy/bailout situation. It has rebounded from that snafu quite well—it now has $25 billion on hand, according to recent reports. And so we can’t look at the $500 million it has put into Lyft and suggest that GM thinks that car-sharing is where the industry is going right this second. But we can look at the investment as an indication that there’s a pretty good chance some sort of fundamental shift is coming in the industry. GM’s long-term play will be to become more of a service provider that also happens to make and design the cars than a direct-to-consumer product manufacturer. Don’t believe me? Here’s what Lyft president John Zimmer told The New York Times: “We strongly believe that autonomous vehicle go-to-market strategy is through a network, not through individual car ownership.” GM’s president, Daniel Ammann, said much the same thing, noting that people in cities already don’t own cars. “From a GM perspective, we view this as much more of an opportunity than a threat,” he said. “We think there’s going to be more change in the world of mobility in the next five years than there has been in the last 50.” That’s not really all that bold of a prediction to make if you look around at the other players in the industry. There’s been absolutely no indication by Google that it will ever sell autonomous cars to the general public, and with all of Google’s advertising, mapping, and personal data capabilities, it probably makes more sense for them to go into the car-as-service-rather-than-product route. Uber is developing driverless cars with a fleet of engineers it poached from Carnegie Mellon University, and one of CEO Travis Kalanick’s express goals is to make using an Uber to get around cheaper than actually owning a car. And so Monday’s General Motors news is immensely important. Not because it’s surprising, but because it’s a logical acknowledgement from an industry giant that, pretty soon, owning a car may become a thing of the past.
News Article | September 2, 2016
Chung Ng knew he wanted to wear something memorable for his wedding at the Plaza Hotel in New York, back in 2012. "They always say it’s the bride’s day, but at the end of the day, it’s both of us getting married and I wanted to make a statement myself," he says. "The groom can shine a little." For the ceremony, he chose a Ralph Lauren Purple Label peak lapel tuxedo, made to measure. "It was a little more classic, a little more regal," Ng says. Later, for the cocktail hour and reception, he changed into a Tom Ford tuxedo with a shawl collar. "It would have been too loose for a formal ceremony," but it was "perfect for dancing." Style-conscious grooms like Ng are on the rise. Many use brightly colored details, like pocket squares, to make a statement. Others, taking a cue from the red carpet, wear suits and tuxedos in nontraditional colors or patterns. And at the bleeding edge, a few enterprising grooms are opting for two different outfits, one for the ceremony and one for the reception, as many brides have been doing for years (Ng’s wife wore not just one or two but four dresses). Andrew Blackmon, cofounder of the tuxedo rental startup the Black Tux, says a growing number of grooms are opting for the double rental. "It’s happening naturally, and we see it happening on a level that surprises us," he says. "What we see a lot is more formal for the ceremony and less formal for the reception." For Black Tux, it’s a potential opportunity. "Some of the styles we’re coming out with later this year, they’ll be for the guy that wants something like that," he says. George Zimmer, founder of a rental startup called Generation Tux, says he’s exploring the idea of wedding weekend packages that would include two different looks. "The generation getting married right now wants to do things their own way," says Zimmer, the long-time face of Men’s Wearhouse (before his unceremonious ouster). "When my generation got married, the brides did about 90% of all the choosing. That’s shifted now." Grooms like Porter Allison embody that shift. Allison, a professional DJ who lives in Nashville, describes himself as a "T-shirt and jeans guy." But for his April wedding to musician Carley Chilton, he coordinated two separate looks, as did the bride: one for the church ceremony in rural Virginia, and the second for the Great Gatsby-themed reception. "I just wanted to have fun with it," Allison says. To start, he donned a gray suit and brown shoes, with cufflinks that had been engraved as a wedding gift. "I looked the part of the dapper gentleman." Then, to embrace the Art Deco aesthetic, he changed into a velvet blazer with dark pants, a black tie, and suspenders. The crowning touch: gold sneakers with LEDs on the sole (his best man wore a matching pair). "A lot of my groomsmen and some friends wanted to know where they could get a jacket like I had for the second look," says Allison, who rented from Black Tux. "I really wanted to keep it. I wanted to keep the suit, too." Watch an episode of Say Yes to the Dress or scan the weddings on Vogue.com, and it’s not hard to find examples of brides with two wedding dresses ("Later in the evening, Connie changed into a short cocktail dress by Reem Acra so she could move more easily on the dance floor," reads a typical Vogue post). As wedding budgets (and fashion extravagances) creep upward, it should come as no surprise that grooms are following suit (no pun intended). They are often older than newlyweds of generations past, and confident in their sense of style. Plus, they’re increasingly footing the bill themselves—no small expense in a city like Chicago, for example, where the average wedding cost $61,265 last year. For that amount of money, brides and grooms want their wedding days to reflect who they are and how they like to have fun. "Guys are really into these more fashion-forward items," says Blackmon, who in Black Tux’s early days had trouble keeping a navy tuxedo in stock, to the team's surprise. "The things pushing the fashion spectrum are selling out. What our team notices is that on a macro level, guys are more interested in self-expression through style." In an interview with Racked, fashion insider Brian Trunzo said, "The average guy looks better than five or 10 years ago. As a result, he's going to experiment more." Fashion certainly plays a role in the trend toward doubling up on groom attire, but culture may be a factor as well, as couples seek to design celebrations that embrace the heritages of both their families. Four in 10 weddings in the U.S. are now interfaith, double the percentage from 50 years ago. At approximately one in 10 weddings, the newlyweds are of different races. And the children of Asian immigrants, who started arriving in larger numbers in the 1980s, are starting to tie the knot, introducing their friends to wedding traditions from China, India, and Korea. For their 2014 wedding, Dan Na and his wife Eunice decided to combine American and Korean traditions. First, they had what Na describes as a "conventional American" religious ceremony at a Korean-American church. "We walked down the aisle, we did the candle thing, we exchanged vows," says the groom, who wore a charcoal suit, white shirt, and black tie. At the reception that followed, they entered as husband and wife to DJ Snake and Lil John's "Turn Down for What." Then, outfit number two for each: pointed clogs and a royal blue floor-length robe called a hanbok, tied at the waist with a gold-embroidered red belt. The couple rented the traditional dress and hired a narrator, who guided them and their guests through the pyebaek (or paebaek) ceremony. "It was really wild, but it was really cool," Na says. "I gave [Eunice] a piggyback ride around a table, then my parents threw chestnuts, and she had to catch them in her dress." Afterward they took off their robes and cut the cake. Despite the growing interest, head-to-toe groom outfit swaps remain relatively rare. Wedding blogs report that grooms are indeed changing up their looks after the formal portraits are complete, but often on the margins. "Once the vows have been said, we’ve seen grooms opt for a more playful tie or pocket square, or swap their dress shoes for a pair of Converse," says Stephanie Weers, managing editor of Style Me Pretty. "It’s all about those subtle ways to infuse a groom’s personal style without detracting attention from his beautiful bride." Whether LED sneakers meet that requirement is between you and your future spouse.
General Motors Co. said Monday it is investing $500 million in ride-hailing company Lyft Inc. and forming an unprecedented partnership that could eventually lead to on-demand, self-driving cars. It's the largest investment yet by a traditional automaker in a new mobility company, and is an acknowledgement by GM that the transportation landscape is changing fast. "We see the world of mobility changing more in the next five years than it has in the last 50," GM President Dan Ammann told The Associated Press. GM made the investment as part of a $1 billion round of fundraising by Lyft. Together, the companies plan to open a network of U.S. hubs where Lyft drivers can rent GM vehicles at discounted rates. That could expand Lyft's business by giving people who don't own cars a way to drive and earn money through Lyft. It also gives GM a leg up on competitors like Daimler AG and Ford Motor Co., who are developing their own ride-sharing services. And it would put more young drivers behind the wheel of a Chevrolet, Buick, GMC or Cadillac. Longer term, GM and Lyft will work together to develop a fleet of autonomous vehicles that city dwellers could summon using Lyft's mobile app. Partnering with GM could give Lyft a boost over its archrival, Uber Technologies Inc., which is working on its own driverless cars. Karl Brauer, an industry analyst with Kelley Blue Book, expects to see automakers and tech companies form more partnerships over the next few months. "Each one has an area of specialization to make both of them stronger," he said. GM isn't the only automaker with an eye on Lyft. Fontinalis Partners—a venture capital firm co-founded by Ford Motor Co.'s Executive Chairman Bill Ford—invested in Lyft last May. The amount invested wasn't disclosed. GM gets a seat on Lyft's board and access to the three-year-old company's software, which matches riders with drivers and automates payments. The partnership also better positions the automaker for a future in which customers don't buy cars every five or six years but share rides or hail drivers when they need to get somewhere. San Francisco-based Lyft gets the expertise of a 108-year-old automaker with decades of experience in making connected and autonomous vehicles. Detroit-based GM also has an enviable global reach; it sells almost 10 million cars each year in more than 100 countries. Lyft operates in 190 U.S. cities, although it recently formed partnerships with ride-sharing services in China and India. Lyft co-founder and President John Zimmer and GM President Dan Ammann say the two companies began serious discussions about three months ago. Both executives see big changes coming in the traditional model of car ownership, and they had similar ideas about how to address it. "It felt very natural very quickly," Zimmer said. Ammann said the resulting partnership is unlike any other in the auto and tech industries. "Do we want to deploy the resources and people to do everything ourselves, or get there faster by working in partnership?" Ammann said. "We see a really compelling, complimentary set of capabilities." GM has made previous forays into the ride-sharing world. In 2011, GM invested $3 million in RelayRides and teamed up to let GM owners rent their cars to other drivers through the OnStar connectivity system. GM and RelayRides cut ties last year when RelayRides—now Turo—rebranded itself as a long-term car-sharing company, GM spokesman Dave Roman said. Some automakers are going alone. Daimler's Car2Go rents out tiny Smart cars in 28 European and U.S. cities. BMW is experimenting with renting out electric cars through its Drive Now service. Apple and Tesla are also believed to be developing their own autonomous software and ride-sharing schemes. Others are forming partnerships. Ford, for example, encourages owners in a handful of U.S. cities to rent cars through Getaround, a car-sharing service. Google, which is testing a small fleet of driverless cars, invested $250 million in Uber in 2013. Following its latest round of fundraising—which also included a $100 million investment from Saudi Arabia's Kingdom Holding Co.—privately held Lyft set its value at $5.5 billion. The company expects revenue of around $1 billion this year. By comparison, GM is valued at $53 billion and had $153 billion in revenue in 2014. GM's shares fell 2 percent to $33.31 on Monday. The major U.S. indices were all down more than 1.5 percent.
The companies said the program to be offered in Chicago this month and several other US cities later this year aims to help those who want to drive for Lyft but lack an adequate vehicle. "We're making sure everyone who wants to be a Lyft driver can be, by providing ultimate flexibility at incredible rates," said Lyft president and co-founder John Zimmer in a statement. Lyft said that in Chicago alone, it had received 60,000 applications from people who wanted to drive for the ridesharing service but who did not have a suitable car. Under the program called Express Drive, the drivers will get a free rental if they give at least 65 rides a week. The cost will be $99 a week for those giving at least 40 rides, and $99 plus a mileage charge for others. Insurance and maintenance are included in the cost, and the drivers will be able to use the vehicles for personal use at 20 cents per mile. GM and Lyft earlier this year unveiled a strategic partnership, with a long-term goal to develop an on-demand network of autonomous vehicles. GM invested $500 million in the service. Lyft is one of the chief competitors in the US market against ridesharing titan Uber, and recently announced a tie-up with China's Didi Kuaidi that helps its global efforts. GM this year unveiled plans for a short-term car rental service under a new "personal mobility" brand known as Maven, competing with services such as Zipcar. Explore further: Lyft gets into China in tie-up with Didi