Penske is getting into the car-sharing business, starting with Washington, DC

Transportation services giant Penske Corp. is backing a new car-sharing service called Penske Dash that launched Tuesday in Washington, D.C. and Arlington, Va.

The service is debuting at an awkward time for the industry. While some car-sharing operations, particularly peer-to-peer services, have expanded, others have struggled in the past year. GM’s Maven, BMW’s ReachNow, Car2Go and Lime are among the car-sharing companies that have scaled back or closed their businesses altogether.

In May, GM scaled back its Maven car-sharing company and stopped service in eight markets. BMW’s ReachNow service shut down so abruptly in Seattle and Portland that customers were still using the cars when the announcement was made. Meanwhile, transportation startup Lime closed its LimePod car-sharing service after less than a year of operations in Seattle and Car2Go pulled out of five North American cities.

Despite these headwinds, Penske Corp. Chairman Roger Penske seems keen to jump into the business.

“Penske Dash furthers our commitment to embrace new technologies while addressing the mobility needs for our consumers,” Roger Penske said in a statement, adding that the company intends to “remain at the forefront of new leading transportation solutions.”

Local operations will be led by Paul Delong, who previously served as president and CEO of Car2Go North America.

Penske Dash gives customers access to a fleet of Volkswagen Jetta SE vehicles that can be rented by the minute, hour or day through the app. The rental rates, which are $0.45 a minute or $15 an hour, include fuel, parking and insurance. Members are also supported with 24/7 access to a call center and a local fleet operations team.

Penske Dash describes itself as “free-floating,” although within Washington, D.C. it’s a bit more constrained than some other services that allow customers to park anywhere within a geographic area. Customers can park their Penske Dash vehicle in a public, unrestricted, street parking space in Arlington identified by Penske Dash. In Washington, D.C., customers must park in a parking spot marked by a Penske Dash sign in approved garages or lots, according to rules stated on its website.

Ridecell, a transportation software company, is providing the platform for the app. The startup, which developed a cloud-based mobility platform designed to help car-sharing, ridesharing and autonomous technology companies manage their vehicles, raised $60 million in a Series B round in late 2018.