It wasn’t very long ago that car-sharing was one of the buzzwords of an auto industry seeking to diversify away from traditional car ownership models. The service didn’t really take off in a big way, and is now being given the death blow by the novel coronavirus.

General Motors has announced that it is shutting down its Maven car-sharing unit, after suspending operations because of the Covid-19 pandemic. The US automaker said it will transfer Maven assets and resources to its Global Innovation group.

According to Reuters, GM’s Maven had never gained much traction since it was introduced in Ann Arbor, Michigan, in January 2016. Conceived when Dan Ammann was GM’s president, Maven had a short-lived alliance with ride services startup Lyft, Uber’s main rival in the US.

Ammann is now heading Cruise, the San Francisco self-driving startup that GM acquired in early 2016 just after launching Maven. Julia Steyn, the first Maven boss, left the carmaker last year. She is now CEO of Bolt Mobility, an e-scooter rental startup co-founded by sprinter Usain Bolt.

In a statement released yesterday, Pamela Fletcher, head of GM Global Innovation, said the company “gained extremely valuable insights” from Maven that would “benefit and accelerate the growth of other areas” of GM’s business. A GM spokesperson said Maven assets would be transferred to other GM units “where there is greater potential for profit and growth.”

It’s not just GM that found car-sharing to be difficult, however. In December 2019, BMW and Daimler said they were exiting the North American car-sharing market. Share Now and its Car2Go unit, a joint venture of the two German premium carmakers, ended operations at the end of February in the US and Canada, citing high operating costs and the “volatile state of the global mobility landscape.”

The Car2Go service allowed people to rent vehicles by the minute and park them on city streets or at parking meters without charge. Tough competition came from Uber, Lyft and electric scooters, it is reported. Here in Malaysia, Socar – launched in January 2018 – is the car sharing pioneer. Have you tried it? If yes, how do you rate car sharing as an alternative to owning a car?