General Motors Co. usually isn't the place for direct feedback from drivers. Want to purchase a Chevy Malibu or get your Cadillac Escalade fixed? Deal with the local dealer, not the automaker.
That's what makes Maven, GM's car-sharing app, a warning about learning to please customers.
Consider this one-star review by a user, identified as Jose Z., who complained that the app timed out when he tried to reserve a car: "Nice try GM," he wrote on Apple Inc.'s iTunes Store, "but you're trying to play in the wrong field. Stick to big trucks and dealerships, not tech and user experience."
Other carmakers rushing to embrace this new business model, in which cars are more of a service than a product, have been met with similar complaints: buggy apps that crash or time out, dirty cars that smell like smoke, vehicles that don't unlock when the driver arrives.
Maven, with an average of 4.1 out of 5 stars, is actually one of the better-rated apps from an automaker, even though GM executives readily acknowledge that the service is a work in progress.
ReachNow, a similar car-borrowing app from BMW AG, does even worse with an average three-star rating. Audi AG's Silvercar gets 2.8 stars on average. A longer-established app from Zipcar Inc. has an average review of 4.6, and ride-hailing apps from Uber Technologies Inc. and Lyft Inc. get 4.7 and 4.9, respectively.
"The automakers have never been good at facing off directly with consumers, and it's not clear that they will be in the future," said Eric Noble, president of the CarLab, a consulting firm in Orange, California.
Crabby app reviews might seem trivial for companies whose multibillion-dollar market caps are based on bending metal, not coaxing clicks. But carmakers have rushed to start digital businesses to compete with Uber and other tech-savvy mobility businesses. The looming Waymo taxi service from Alphabet Inc., Google's parent company, will use an app to match passengers with driverless vehicles.