Bodil Eriksson is a longtime Volvo executive charged with finding a way to get people to buy fewer cars. The new subsidiary she leads, M, is the latest attempt by a carmaker to enter the car-sharing space dominated by startups like Car2go (owned by Daimler) and Zipcar (owned by Avis). This spring, M will roll out hundreds of subscription-accessible cars in a to-be-announced American city, making Volvo the latest automaker to challenge the model of personal car ownership that has defined the American way of life for nearly a century.
Eriksson walked the walk: She gave up her car when Volvo announced M last summer. “Super frustrating. I’m not getting a car until we’ve solved it,” was how she described navigating the carless life, before adding: “And there’s also a little bit of liberation in there. I was so strangely attached to my car; I started all the planning with my car.”
Say hello to a 21st-century auto exec. You’d think those two goals—selling people cars, and renting people cars so they don’t have to buy them—would be at odds. And they might be. But you won’t hear the automakers say so. In any case, they feel the wind is blowing toward a subscription model—one estimate has sales dropping by 40 percent in 25 years—and they don’t want to be left behind.