Posting in Cities
The American dream isn't necessarily about owning nice things anymore. Sometimes it's about accessing them, as part of the sharing economy.
As I neared the northern end of the Golden Gate Bridge and traffic opened up, I pressed a wee bit harder on the accelerator pedal in my BMW ActiveE, and sped through the S-curves. Yes, it was my ActiveE. At least, it was for a few hours. In September, the German automaker brought its carsharing program, DriveNow, to U.S. soil with a fleet of 70 ActiveE's -- an electric iteration of the carmaker's 1-series coupe and its first foray into electric vehicles.
The sharing economy, which carsharing, bikesharing, whatever-sharing and services as diverse as Airbnb and Netflix all fall under, accounts for a growing portion of the national economy. If the sharing economy conjures images of the resource-conscious Birkenstock set or young and scrappy hipsters, you'd be right. But you'd also be wrong. More and more, the sharing economy is creeping into the land of luxury brands and high-end services.
To some degree, this isn’t new. Services that rent high-end women's handbags, jewelry or couture clothing have been around for a while. But, as cities become more populous and people's lives become increasingly stressful and complicated, owning things is not always the most logical or simple path to enjoying things -- regardless of one's personal wealth.
"We're moving to a world in which access to goods, services or talent triumphs over ownership," says Lisa Gansky, whose 2010 book The Mesh: Why the Future of Business is Sharing examines the ways that the Internet, new business models and technology are fostering the sharing economy. "Owning a lot of things is complicated," she says. Plenty of very wealthy people could purchase a private jet, or a small winery in Napa Valley, or a luxury villa in Tuscany. But that, says Gansky, doesn't mean they want to take on the responsibly and costs of then maintaining and insuring them.
A family might want to fly down to, say, Santa Fe, New Mexico, for the weekend. Whether in first class or coach, flying commercially into Albuquerque and then driving to Santa Fe could take up a whole day. A service such as Social Flights, however, would let you find other people who want to take the same trip and then share the costs of chartering a private jet, direct to Santa Fe.
Exclusive Resorts is another service that links members not only to high-end resorts, but also private vacation homes and VIP access to events such as golf tournaments, sport fishing trips or fashion shows. It's like Zipcar, except that instead of a fuel-efficient car, members get luxury vacations. Fancy a yacht trip without ownership? Voyage Yacht Share has some ideas for you.
The sharing economy has even extended to winemaking. "People who are rich think they want to own a winery, but what they really want is to have their own label, access to a swank place for entertaining. They want the gestalt of owning a winery without having to actually do the work," she says.
Enter The Napa Valley Reserve. Members are allotted rows of grapes and in the fall they work with a team of winemakers to pick and sort them, and then visit with the winemaker at key times throughout the fermentation and vine pruning processes. They eventually select a specific blend and then consult with designers to create the label, select a bottle type and name the wine. There are special events and parties held throughout the year and in the end members have a bespoke wine that "they" made. They won't need to do much manual labor or learn through trial and error to make the wine, but they'll pay at least $155,000 to join the club.
BMW certainly isn't the only carmaker to join the carsharing fray. Daimler has brought its two-seat Smart car (both gas and electric) to the Car2Go carsharing program in Austin, TX, and San Diego, CA. Volkswagen has a program in Germany. General Motors has invested in RelayRides, a peer-to-peer carsharing program, and enabled the 6 million users of GM's OnStar satellite communication service to put their cars in the RelayRides carsharing pool.
Every major carmaker has realized that as the global population chugs up from the 7 billion mark and more people move to cities, individual car ownership will simply no longer be tenable. But BMW is the first to make a premium car sharable. (It is also launching an entire series of cars -- the i series -- focused on urban transportation. The ActiveE is a precursor to the i3, an EV that BMW plans to release in the States early next year.)
DriveNow CEO Richard Steinberg says the time is ripe. "We see room in the shared economy for a premium offer. There are enough [carsharing] services now that are getting traction. We think there is a real possibility for a premium experience – that's why we're in the space."
Premium cars come at a premium price -- the ActiveE DriveNow program costs $12 for the first 30 minutes and then 32 cents each minute thereafter. Compared to Zipcar, which starts at $8 per hour, that's a higher bar. But Steinberg believes the program, which launched in September will attract visitors to the Bay Area who want the flexibility the program allows. Cars can be picked up in San Francisco and left at another DriveNow location, such as the soon-to-open Palo Alto lot, and all DriveNow lots are close to public transit arteries.
The move is strategic as well. SF residents who use DriveNow likely do so because they don't have a car, either because they live in a part of the city where having a car is a hassle or because they can't afford the car they really want. With DriveNow, Steinberg says, "an urban dweller gets experience with our cars and then later in life, his situation might change. He might move out of the city and be ready to buy a car, and at that time he is familiar with BMW."
Images: BMW (top); Napa Valley Reserve (bottom)
Nov 7, 2012
happened on the earth. However, it's mostly idealist, and most impractical. The only sharing that works, to an extent, is where resources are pooled via a centralized government, and used for the general welfare, like roads and bridges. Other than where it benefits the community as a whole, it's not something that leads to long-term success, for the idea or to the sharers. Nobody wants to share equally if they can help it. It's the nature of humans, where, greed is a trait that is built into most of us. People want to own things, and people want to be different, and people want their freedom to do as they wish and to use whatever they can get their hands on. Most people would like ot share, without also contributing. Sharing where a company owns the resources, and people get to use the for a fee, is the same as renting. If that's the definition of what sharing is about, then, it's not really a revolutionary new idea, and why is anybody even talking about it?
It's not just a question of theory or philosophy but a necessity. Sharing has always been part of our human cultural heritage, from villages sharing resources way back then to communities around the globe now and the current rise of bartering. Our system currently functions the other way and our economics are built around ownership. In order to turn around the trend and go back to sharing, it will take time and resources, which means early adopters will pay premiums until companies develop sustainable businesses practices to allow everyone cheaper access. There have been a lot of predictions about how we will eventually stop using money and either barter or find sharing systems. The Bitcoin idea developed a while ago has gained ground and is looking more and more practical. But if you don't want to believe this, you can always watch Star Trek when Cpt Picard finds someone form our era on the Enterprise who raves at how powerful and rich Picard must be. To this he laughs and says they hadn't used money for over 3 centuries and work for the common good of society. Yeah, that and a pretty healthy dose of humor :)
The truly "wealthy" typically "own". People who rent such goods typically wish to appear wealthy. Case in point: Before the economic meltdown, over 75% of all BMWs were leased; basically rented. I think this phenomenon is more oriented towards upper-middle class people who wish to experience higher-end goods and services, but cannot afford to own.
Middle and lower class Americans have been sharing for decades - Lawm mowers, ladders, wheel barrows, shovels, clippers, power tools, labor, shop vacs, car pooling, etc, etc, etc.
But when it comes to taxes and helping others? Did they vote for Romney - cause if they DID - well we know what they REALLY think about sharing...... and the 99%
...but only because in very small groups, people are all held tightly accountable to each other. A "family" is a perfect example of microsocialism at work. As long as there is mutual accountability, "communes" work relatively well. kibbutzim in Israel works relatively well, mainly because of accountability combined with a religious mandate overlay. The problem with socialism is that as the group gets bigger and bigger, accountability between all citizens breaks down. It's not possible to be accountable to everyone if you aren't close to everyone, or even know them personally.
...they regularly played poker with "Federation credits" or "gold-pressed latinum". And I really don't see much point to living in a hell-hole mining dilithium crystals unless there was some kind of big payback in doing so. Even in the Star Trek universe, they needed money to keep things working.
And I think it's true with respect to services such as Groupon, which could get someone into a spa or a high-end eatery that they might not be able to access. There are wine-buying clubs that use collective purchases of cases of wine that cuts costs by cutting out the middle man. And yes, upper middle class drivers might be as likely to use the Drive Now program. But The Napa Valley Reserve and high-end travel services likely remain out of their reach.
they understand that, it is the rich who are sharing the most, and contributing the most to the economy, and to the general welfare of the country. It is the rich who pay the vast majority of taxes, which then gets "redistributed" by government to those poor and middle-class who don't pay any taxes. So, when it comes to sharing, it is the rich who are sharing the most, because, without their wealth and without their know-how on how to create that wealth, and without them risking their wealth on the economy, the country would be just another Greece. So, now, why don't you get out of that liberal denial bubble that has kept you ignorant, and go and learn a little bit about what's really happening all around you.
A dated narrative going back to the 30s. Hasn't been true since the '80s. http://finance.yahoo.com/news/obama-wins-8-10-wealthiest-154837437.html
... Just maybe not federal income taxes. But if they get a paycheck at all they're paying Social Security/Medicare taxes, they're paying sales taxes in most states and income taxes in some states. The pay property taxes either directly if they own property or indirectly if the rent their abode. As far as the rich paying most of the taxes (Federal income tax specifically), the top 5% own more than 50% of the wealth in this country., the bottom 50% own less than 5% of the wealth. You can't get blood from a turnip.