Mercedes-Benz’s parent company Daimler has announced that its mobility-services unit, Moovel Group, is expanding to the US. By merging its RideScout ride-sharing service based in Austin, Texas, with a Portland, Ore.-based mobile ticketing service called GlobeSherpa, Daimler is forming a Moovel North America unit that hopes to get a Mercedes-sized share of ride-hailing services and also serve as a vehicle for Daimler’s greater mobility-based ambitions.
According to the Wall Street Journal, these include creating a network of “interoperable products built for transit agencies, app developers and end consumers,” said Jorg Lamparter, CEO of Moovel. Moovel already operates Car2Go, one of the largest car-sharing services in the world, and has invested in “ride-for-hire” services such as MyTaxi in Europe.
Meanwhile, the possibilities for doing business in this still-emerging arena have been underscored by the fact that Lyft is gaining on industry icon Uber Technologies in their battle for market share.
In part based on the resources guaranteed by General Motors’ half-billion-dollar investment in the company, Bloomberg noted that Lyft is amping up its marketing effort with initiatives such as fielding a “small army” of reps handing out $50 Lyft ride vouchers to passersby in 20 of the largest US cities, and running giant billboards in New York’s Times Square and on bus stops around the country.
It may seem counterproductive for automakers to be backing mobility efforts so heavily, but they don’t have much of a choice than to participate as broadly and deeply as possible in one of the important directions in which global consumption of transportation is headed.
And further, as Ford CEO Mark Fields pointed out to the Journal in a recent interview, because of ride-sharing one could assume that “there would be less vehicles sold, but we’re changing our business model to look at this as vehicle miles traveled.”
When you look at it that way, added Fields, “It changes your mind to think about what kind of services we can offer via our products. I could argue that with autonomous vehicles, the actual mileage on those vehicles will accumulate a lot more than a personally owned vehicle, plus the servicing. That could actually be a bit of an offset.”