As it looks to expand its mobility services in the face of changing automotive ownership patterns, PSA Group has acquired start-up TravelCar.
The business operates short-term car rental programs and also allows users to reserve parking spaces through a smartphone app. With 5,000 partner car parks and tens of thousands of cars available for rental, it has already attracted more than a million users in more than 60 countries.
PSA Group and TravelCar have not disclosed the amount paid for the acquisition but first took an equity stake in TravelCar, which was founded in 2012, three years ago. The following year, with a €15 million investment from the French automotive business and insurance group MAIF, TravelCar entered the US market. The move was part of PSA’s strategy to return to the market by 2026, after leaving in the early 1990s.
‘With a million users, TravelCar is a major success,’ commented Brigitte Courtehoux, senior vice president, Connected Services and New Mobility Solutions at PSA Group. ‘Through this acquisition, we are stepping up our support for the company and demonstrating our commitment to developing an efficient, sustainable mobility services ecosystem.’
‘We are proud and delighted to be able to write the next chapter of the company’s history with PSA Group and all of the TravelCar teams,’ added TravelCar’s founder, Ahmed Mhiri. ‘We’re also very excited about working on the many innovative solutions that such an alliance will enable us to offer our users.’
Mobility services are held under a separate umbrella business at PSA Group, as part of the Free2Move brand. The unit has a target revenue of €300 million in 2021. The business operates short-term rental fleets in cities including Paris, Washington and Madrid. Through its app, it is also an aggregator for short-term mobility rental services, from electric scooters to bicycles to cars. It also offers fleet management services, long-term business vehicle leasing and car sharing.
Free2Move launched in Paris during December 2018. The collapse of the Autolib service in the city earlier in the year paved the way for the manufacturer to enter the mobility services market, according to Courtehoux. Free2Move will initially operate 550 vehicles in Paris, down from the 4,000 vehicles that predecessor Autolib used.
Car companies are increasingly looking at mobility services as a way to ensure they futureproof their businesses as ownership patterns change. It is no longer seen as essential to purchase a car, with more and more young people using ride-sharing services instead.