After stumbling for years in car-sharing, Volkswagen now plans to invest heavily in short-term rentals while exploiting the boom in electric vehicles. It will be playing catch-up with Mercedes-maker Daimler and BMW, which are combining their car-sharing services to save money.
VW marketing chief Jürgen Stratmann said the new service would be launched in Germany next year under the brand name “WE.” In 2020, it will be extended to large cities in Europe, North America and Asia.
“We are convinced that car-sharing still has potential,” Mr. Stratmann said in making the announcement in Berlin. The carmaker estimates that there are 24 million potential customers for the service in Europe alone.
Still, carsharing hasn’t had it easy so far. Costs forced Daimler’s Car2Go and BMW’s DriveNow to merge and France’s Peugeot Citroen abandoned its Multicity all-electric car business in Berlin last year. VW itself shuttered its Quicar pilot project in Hanover at the beginning of 2016 after it bought a majority stake in Greenwheels, a car-sharing service available in the Netherlands and Germany.
VW will rely exclusively on all-electric cars for the new service. Among other things, WE will serve as a marketing channel for its planned I.D. brand of electric vehicles, including a relaunched VW microbus called I.D. Buzz. The company didn’t disclose any details about fleet size, prices or the first locations for the new service.
WE will also direct customers to unoccupied parking spaces and connect them to local discount vouchers. The rentals will also include electric scooters and e-footbikes, which are growing in popularity in urban areas. “In this way, we can ease urban congestion in an intelligent manner,” said Mr. Stratmann.
Lukas Bay covers companies for Handelsblatt in Berlin. Darrell Delamaide adapted this article into English for Handelsblatt Global. To contact the author: firstname.lastname@example.org.