Stellantis’ Free2move buys car-sharing service from BMW and Mercedes-Benz

The car-sharing mobility startup within the Jeep maker will more than double in size, adding 14 European cities, mainly in Germany, to its service territory with the acquisition of ShareNow from the BMW and Mercedes-Benz groups, said the company announced on Tuesday.

Details of the deal, which is subject to antitrust reviews, were not disclosed. Free2move’s acquisition of self-service car-sharing service Stellantis NV, which is expected to close in September, marks the brand’s biggest step in growing its operations since its inception in 2016.

It will help accelerate the expansion of Free2move services offering car rentals by the minute, day or month, including in the United States, said Brigitte Courtehoux, CEO of the startup.

“What we’re doing with ShareNow, when the shutdown does, here, it’s strengthening our leadership in the world,” she said. “In the United States we are rolling and it will continue to grow organically.”

The sale of ShareNow, the 2019 creation of the joint venture between Daimler AG’s car2go and BMW’s DriveNow that exited the North American market in early 2020, marks yet another exit from automakers in the car-sharing space. BMW and Mercedes-Benz say they are instead focusing on digital multimobility and digital services related to electric vehicle charging.

Free2move operates a self-service car-sharing service in seven cities in the United States and Europe. ShareNow will add 10,000 vehicles to Free2move’s fleet of 2,500 and 3.2 million users to its existing 2 million. It aims to increase that number to 15 million users worldwide by 2030 with nearly $3 billion in annual revenue, up from $42 million last year.

“They haven’t found the recipe,” Courtehoux said of automakers that sold out and discontinued car-sharing services. “We have already found the recipe.

She declined to detail Free2move’s earnings, but said the service achieved profitability in the second half of 2020 even as growth slowed amid the COVID-19 pandemic. Growth doubled last year and continues to accelerate in 2022, Courtehoux said.

At the heart of its success, she says, is a full suite of service options to support customers. In addition to car sharing and subscriptions, Free2move has a fleet management data platform for companies like dealerships that it uses in Europe and plans to expand into the United States.

It also offers parking services and has built an electric vehicle charging network of 250,000 stations in Europe, which it plans to expand to the United States by the end of the year, starting with the sale of boxes. walls.

“It’s really a market that the customer will use per minute, per day, per month,” she said. “It’s about delivering the whole experience to our customers.”

Free2move will add more mobility hubs in the US and offer on-demand monthly subscriptions in more cities. Neither service is currently available in Detroit. Its hubs are in Washington, DC; Portland, Oregon; Denver; Columbus, Ohio; and Austin, TX.

Free2move will soon introduce electric vehicles to its US fleets, made up of Jeep Renegades, some Alfa Romeos and other vehicles, which will ramp up around 2025, Courtehoux said. Nearly 90% of its fleet in Europe is electrified.

In the more distant future, Courtehoux looks forward to the deployment of autonomous vehicles in its fleet through Stellantis’ partnership with Waymo LLC, the self-driving technology company of Google parent company Alphabet Inc. There is no schedule, but the US will likely be one of the first places to see a Free2move service with self-driving vehicles.

“It’s going to be a game-changer,” she said, noting the conveniences of a ride-sharing service like that of Uber Technologies Inc. that brings the vehicle to the customer rather than having to find a nearby vehicle to that the customer can drive in the Free2move app.

“They’ll be the same, because you won’t need the driver,” Courtehoux said. “The car will come to you without a driver, and with Free2move, you won’t have the car 100 meters away, because it will be autonomous. It will come to you. It will be exactly the same job.”

For now, by increasing the deployment of electric vehicles and improving customer convenience with them, Free2move can help Stellantis achieve its electrification goals, of which more than half of US sales will be all-electric from by 2030. The biggest value, however, is the entrepreneurial spirit the startup takes on as Stellantis attempts a transition into a sustainable mobility technology company, Courtehoux said.

“I was in the automotive business,” said Courtehoux, who was previously project manager for the launch of the Peugeot 208 city car. “I was lucky to have this new business in the new digital world, and the two have different skills. When you’re able to link those skills…you can be super, super strong.”

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Lance B. Holton