Pooling resources

Bosch buys Uber rival SPLT

main 81509962 source Franziska Kraufmann DPA – Bosch CEO Volkmar Denner May 2017 show car prototype futuristic auto vehicle
Got SPLT? Bosch CEO Volkmar Denner is ready to carpool. Source: DPA

Bosch, a leading maker of diesel engine parts and steering gearboxes, is about to shift gears. The privately-owned company on Wednesday said it bought Detroit-based ride-sharing service Splitting Fares, branded as SPLT, for an undisclosed amount. The purchase will catapult the world’s biggest car parts supplier into direct rivalry with ride-hailing apps from Uber and Lyft. It also makes Bosch a direct competitor of many of the carmakers it supplies: Daimler, which makes Mercedes-Benz cars, has its own app to order a taxi.

SPLT, founded in 2015, focuses on creating carpools from commuters heading in the same destination. It specifically targets companies, universities and municipalities, to allow them to offer ride-sharing services to their employees. SPLT’s business-to-business approach sets it apart from Uber, which targets end-users directly, but is similar to Daimler’s US subsidiary Via, which targets businesses as well as consumers.

Stuttgart-based Bosch, founded in 1886 as a mechanics and electrical engineering workshop, has been steadily building up a portfolio of new mobility products and already operates COUP, an electric-scooter sharing service. Buying SPLT will help transform it from a supplier of brakes, engine parts and wiper blades into a competitor of Daimler, VW, BMW and GM, which have all been building up car-sharing or ride-hailing services. In addition to Via, Daimler operates the German Car2Go sharing service. BMW has DriveNow in Europe and ReachNow in the US. VW owns Greenwheels and ride-hailing subsidiary Moia as well as a stake in Gett.

Just how many employees need an app to share their car with co-workers, who might be sitting across from them, remains to be seen.

To underline the importance of its new products, Bosch said it would bundle the different businesses into a new subsidiary called “Connected Mobility Services.” The new division will include COUP, which is available in Berlin and Paris, as well as its cloud-connected electric powertrain components wing and a unit that develops software that calculates battery life as well as charging station locations.

“Connected driving is a growth area for Bosch. Bosch aims for significant double-digit growth with the solutions it offers,” CEO Volkmar Denner said in a statement. The car company cited a study from consultancy PwC, which predicted the market for mobility and associated digital services will grow to €140 billion in 2022 from €47 billion last year.

Just how many employees really need an app to share their car with co-workers, who might be sitting across from them, remains to be seen. Currently, 140,000 people use SPLT’s products, according to Bosch. That’s tiny compared to the 40 million users per month for Uber, which was founded in 2009. Lyft, set up in 2012 and partially owned by GM and Ford, had 23 million users last year. Via, which launched operations in 2013, has 1 million members.

SPLT can fall back on Bosch’s cloud and the German company, which also makes washing machines, power tools and packaging machines, and had operating profits of €5.3 billion last year on sales of €78 billion. “We believe we have a good chance of global growth together with Bosch,” Anya Babbitt, SPLT’s boss and co-founder, said in a statement.

Bosch’s purchase follows Daimler’s announcement in December it had bought a majority stake in France’s Chauffeur Privé, a budding car-ride app. VW has been building up its mobility subsidiary Moia since the end of 2016.

ZF Bosch Continental Friedrichshafen 01 p20 The world’s largest car-parts makers-01

Martin-Werner Buchenau reports from Stuttgart as Handelsblatt’s Baden-Württemberg correspondent. Gilbert Kreijger is an editor with Handelsblatt Global. To contact the authors: buchenau@handelsblatt.com and kreijger@handelsblatt.com

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