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DriveNow vehicles won’t need keys

German premium car maker BMW plans to launch a car-sharing venture in an attempt to bolster its innovative mobility credentials and attract new customers to the brand.

BMW is planning the new venture, which will be called “DriveNow,” with car-rental group Sixt. It will start in Munich and Berlin in April.

The two companies said “DriveNow” will offer simple and flexible usage of BMW cars. Customers can rent and drop off vehicles wherever they want.

Under the terms of the 50-50 joint venture, BMW will provide the premium vehicles and the technology within the cars, while Sixt will contribute premium services, car-hire know-how, IT systems and a comprehensive customer registration network.

BMW said the car-sharing venture will be part of the company’s BMW i brand, which stands for innovative mobility. The carmaker plans to launch an i brand electric city car as well.

Ian Robertson, head of BMW’s sales and marketing said in a statement there is a growing demand for flexible mobility products in urban areas. “DriveNow’s premium car sharing services are aimed precisely at this gap in the market.”

Robertson also said BMW is aiming to launch a profitable new line of business while, “at the same time introducing potential new customers to our brands.”

Customers can find and book a DriveNow car online, via a smartphone app or simply at the roadside. Vehicles can be used immediately without advance reservation or they may be booked in advance.

Moreover, to make the system as easy-to-use as possible, DriveNow vehicles can be opened and closed with a chip on the driving license and activated by pressing the start button. A key is not needed.

The two parent companies will be introducing a transparent price model that charges a flat 29 cents a minute for a vehicle. That covers all costs, including parking and fuel.

DriveNow will start in Munich - subject to regulatory approvals - with 300 BMW 1 Series and Mini vehicles. In Berlin, DriveNow will have 500 cars. A rollout in other European cities is planned for later and BMW said it would like to launch the scheme on other continents as well.

BMW and Sixt are aiming for 1 million DriveNow members by 2020.