Mercedes-Benz debuts Croove, its own car-sharing network

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It’s become a well-trod refrain, but carmakers are looking at what comes after ownership, and car-sharing between individual owners and renters is one of those models. Mercedes-Benz has begun its own car-share service that adopts that approach – Croove, a platform that has now launched as a pilot in Munich, Germany.

Croove is pure peer-to-peer car rental model, where renters use an app to make choices about what model, trim level and other options they’re looking for in a car. The app will poll its database of registered vehicle owners in the area and find out what’s available for the time and duration need by the renter, and connect the dots. Mercedes isn’t limiting what kind of cars can be on the platform – it’s available to all makes of cars, with the limitation being that the car is in good condition, and isn’t older than 15 years.

Mercedes-Benz owner Daimler is no stranger to car sharing; the company owns and operates Car2Go, a shared vehicle platform where it offers a fleet of Smart and Mercedes vehicles to members who use them on an as-needed basis and pay only for the time they drive. This is a very different approach, however, and notable for being automaker agnostic.

Typically you’d expect carmakers to want to use a service like this to promote its own vehicles, and indeed that’s how they’ve approach services like Zipcar in the past – as a showroom or test ride opportunity for casual drivers who might consider a purchase later on. GM’s Maven has that as one of its explicit service goals, in fact.

Croove is much more like its independent competitors, however; Turo, which just launched in the UK, does the same thing, connecting car owners with renters regardless of vehicle type, and others like easyCar Club in Europe are doing the same.

The decision to open up the platform might just be about making sure Mercedes-Benz can accrue enough data about the pilot to judge whether this is a worthwhile effort for expansion using its own cars, but it’s more likely that the carmaker is not treating this primarily as lead-generation for vehicle sales. Instead, like other automakers making more serious investments in alternative transportation models, Mercedes seems to be focused more on what comes next for automakers when selling cars to people might not be their primary business.

Car sharing also becomes something that Mercedes-Benz and other carmakers can use as a purchase incentive, however – almost like an alternative form of financing, which can be used to help defray the cost of ownership. Even if Croove is open to all vehicles, it’d be relatively easy for Mercedes to use it as a sales push by showing how much a potential vehicle buyer could potentially earn back towards their lease or finance payments by also renting their car out occasionally on the platform.

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