German auto giant Volkswagen announced that it would launch an all-electric car-sharing service in Berlin next year, hoping to release the new models and break into a fast-growing market of the present scenario.
Set to begin in the second quarter of 2019, the service known as “We Share” will at first offer 1,500 VW E-Golf compact cars in the capital, with a further 500 smaller E-up vehicles to be added later.
The cars will steadily be replaced as new models from Volkswagen’s next-generation “I.D.” range becomes accessible. ‘We Share’ will join other “free floating” car-sharing services—in which autos are left parked round the city for users to book via a mobile phone app—even now long present in Berlin and other key cities around the world.
Executives at the world’s biggest car-maker see growth prospective of at least 15 percent per year for such offerings in Europe, and plan to enlarge to other large cities across Germany, Europe, the United States and Canada from 2020.
But Wolfsburg-based Volkswagen faces engrained competition from the likes of Daimler and BMW, who agreed in March to merge their car-sharing apps Car2Go and Drive-Now. The two high-end manufacturers aim eventually to offer a suite of “mobility services” from car-sharing to taxi hailing or finding free parking spaces and electric car charging points, aiming to contest with challengers like California-based Uber. Combined, Car2Go and Drive-Now already offer 20,000 vehicles for short-term rental in some 31 cities, with four million registered users.
Volkswagen also has big plans for assimilating different forms of transport, with enterprises like electric buses that can be hailed to “virtual stops”, currently being tested in German port city Hamburg.
It plans to spend 3.5 billion euros ($4 billion) by 2025 on a suite of projects under its so-called “digital offensive”. The company also forecasts around 15 percent annual growth in Europe for on-demand vehicles. Car-sharing has become a major play for auto firms who expect that younger customers, especially those living in cities, are less interested in committing to a large capital expenditure for a car.
Volkswagen confirmed that each of its electric vehicles will pass data to-and-from the cloud-based operating system, gathering personal data from customers, such as the length and time of trips taken.
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