German automakers launch drive-on-demand start-ups

03 Jan 2017

If we hear about one more “AirBnB for … ” or “Uber for … ” we may shoot ourselves. Or the perpetrators of such nonsense. But we digress …

Daimler and Volkswagen have announced on-demand mobility initiatives. Daimler calls its program Croove, a peer-to-peer platform helping private owners rent their autos — an “AirBnB for autos,” Daimler said. The app helps users set a rental price based on the make, model, age and condition of the vehicle. (It doesn’t have to be a Mercedes.) Owners can meet to hand the keys directly to the renter, or pay extra for Croove valet service to handle pick-up and drop-off.

Courtesy of Croove

Croove takes a fee of 30 percent of the rental price and provides insurance coverage against damage and theft.

Daimler is adding some of its own autos to Croove’s inventory for the startup phase, according to an article in Gruenderszene. Still in testing, Croove now operates only in Munich but soon will be rolled out elsewhere.

While it faces strong competition from established car-sharing platforms like Drivy, the French-owned European market leader, and Berlin-based Getaway, it is an important part of Daimler’s strategy to reinvent itself as a future-leaning mobility company.

Croove also complements Moovel, an app Daimler launched in 2012 that allows users in German cities to find and book available transportation options – including public transport, car-sharing and taxi services. It competes with Moovit, the world leader, which received an equity investment from BMW i Ventures early last year.

Volkwagen’s new Moia is an independent brand within the VW Group with the lofty aim of becoming “one of the world’s top mobility providers.” In the news release announcing Moia, VW said it expects to “generate a substantial share of its sales revenue” from the company by 2025.

Ole Harms, CEO of Moia (courtesy of Volkswagen New Mobility Operations GmbH)

Moia is currently focused on ride-hailing and on-demand shuttles via app. VW already started working on ride-hailing through its $300 million U.S. investment in Gett, the European Uber competitor, in May. The company said it plans to expand Gett in Europe.

Moia plans to create on-demand “pooling” services in urban areas to complement public transport — using shuttles transporting people on the same route, which users order on demand with an app. Moia CEO Ole Harms (pictured) told Gruenderszene.de recently that the company is designing its own shuttles and will introduce them in 2017.

Harms said in an interview with the Weser Kurier (here in German) published this week that Moia is open to external investors, adding “fresh capital is always good, and an investor is always a good counterweight.”

Not just German auto manufacturers are jumping on the mobility-on-demand bandwagon. Honda recently announced a major investment in Grab, one of Southeast Asia’s largest ride-hailing platforms.

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Kate Rodriguez

Kate Rodriguez covers the German market for AIM Group. She is a freelance business writer with an extensive background in public policy, business consulting and marketing. Originally from the U.S., Kate is now based in Munich.