Top Five: Vehicle sharing projects that have hit the brakes
By now, we are very familiar with the four building blocks of the future car industry – Connected technologies, Autonomous Vehicles, Shared mobility and Electrification. However, not all four CASE areas are created equal.
So, while electric vehicles remain priority number one, as carmakers seek to lower their fleet emissions and thus avoid significant fines, and autonomy and connectivity both remain key focuses, vehicle sharing has rather fallen out of favor.
Prohibitively expensive costs of running the schemes, the lack of customers thanks to coronavirus, and a certain infamous app-based taxi-hailing firm are just three of the reasons why.
In this Top Five list, we look at some of the vehicle sharing ideas that are gone but not forgotten – that all-important data remains where the value lies after all. Lessons have been learned, and the sharing ventures of the new normal to come will benefit.
#1 – Daimler BMW Share Now
Perhaps the largest casualty so far, the Daimler and BMW joint venture Share Now announced that it would wind down its services in all of North America, plus Brussels, Florence, and London, on February 29.
Yes, the best brains from BMW and Daimler in the field weren’t able to figure out how to encourage enough people to use the firm’s fleet of Smart, Mercedes, Mini, and BMW vehicles to offset the high running costs.
Essentially, the issue also boils down to why drive yourself, when an Uber can be had for a similar price, at a similar speed, and you don’t have to bother to park the car yourself when you’re done?
#2 – GM Maven
After four years in service in the US, GM closed its Maven carsharing service for good. Maven had already been scaled back, reducing its presence in 17 North American cities to Detroit, Los Angeles, Washington, D.C. and Toronto, and the service had been put on hold due to the spread of Covid-19.
However, and email went to customers this week announcing that Maven will cease to operate, and GM has no plans right now to re-enter the carsharing game.
In a statement, Pamela Fletcher, GM’s vice president of global innovation, said, “We’ve gained extremely valuable insights from operating our own car-sharing business. Our learnings and developments from Maven will go on to benefit and accelerate the growth of other areas of GM business.” These include its focus on getting Cruise off the ground.
#3 – Ford Chariot
Not all is rosy when it comes to van-based services either. Back in 2016, Ford spent $65 million on Chariot, a ride-pooling service based in San Francisco.
Despite its best efforts, including expansion into new markets in the US, and the UK, the service could not attract enough riders to take on of the 15 seats on its vividly branded Ford Transits. Chariot was wound up on February 1, 2019.
It is interesting to note that the predominantly US-based service was effectively shuttered as one report put it ‘because people didn’t want a better bus.’
The relative lack of bus services in the US, when compared with Europe, seems to have been a factor, with people preferring to spend more on an Uber, rather than opting for the halfway-house solution that Chariot provided.
#4 – PSA Multicity
After five years in operation, PSA called time on its Multicity fleet in Berlin in late 2017. Comprising more than 200 free-floating Citroen C Zero EVs and C1 superminis, the scheme was run together with Deutsche Bahn.
In an unusually candid move, the failure of the sharing scheme was put down to a lack of vehicles, with Brigitte Courtehoux, PSA's senior vice president for mobility services, saying "We didn't have enough cars... some users had to walk a kilometer or more to find a car.
The information has been used to rollout PSA’s improved carsharing offer, now called Free2Move. The service now operates 65,000 vehicles in Europe, plus more in the US, and has over 260,000 users. In France, the scheme will be augmented – coronavirus permitting – with the addition of the two-seat Citroën Ami, which will be available to rent by anyone from the age of 16 with or without a driver’s license.
#5 – Bosch Coup
Coup was a wholly owned subsidiary of Bosch, and offered electric Gogoro scooters in four cities – Berlin and Tübingen in Germany, and Paris and Madrid – over the past four years. Citing economic unsustainability, the firm closed its offer at the end of 2019.
However, Coups will continue to ride, as Berlin-based Tier bought up the fleet of 5,000 electric mopeds, and accompanying charging infrastructure, and will add the bikes to the Tier app in Berlin.
The aim here is to appeal to gig workers who wish to use the scooters for deliveries, rather than using a regular bicycle. Could this be the move that finally makes the money?