Economy, Auto

Ridesharing Snowballs With Carmakers

Ridesharing Snowballs With CarmakersRidesharing Snowballs With Carmakers

Car sharing is taking off in a big way globally with several manufacturers pushing ahead with their own schemes.

Last week alone, Toyota invested in and partnered with ride-share giant Uber, Volkswagen Group invested in Gett, a ride-hailing company popular in Europe, and BMW AG invested in Scoop Technologies Inc., of San Francisco, maker of a mobile carpooling app. Toyota's captive finance arm will invest an undisclosed amount in Uber and offer flexible leasing options to drivers by the end of 2016, Automotive News reported.

Toyota will begin the partnership on a trial basis in countries where ridesharing is expanding. A spokesman could not specify whether the partnership will operate in the US.

In March, Chris Ballinger, Toyota Financial Services CFO and global chief officer of strategic innovation, said at the American Financial Services Association's vehicle finance conference that the rideshare business model creates "a lot of opportunities for financial services companies". And there will be even more opportunities when lenders launch fleet programs with ridesharing companies, he added.

Toyota hopes to do just that through its alliance with Uber. The automaker is exploring collaboration opportunities with Uber to establish a fleet program to sell Toyota and Lexus vehicles to drivers. The first major automaker to finalize a rideshare investment was General Motors in January. GM invested $500 million in Lyft, Uber's rival.

GM President Dan Ammann sits on Lyft's board. GM leases vehicles to Lyft drivers in Chicago and plans to expand the program to other cities. In addition, Maven, a company General Motors unveiled in January, targets students on college campuses by expanding on several of GM's car-sharing services, including a residential program in New York City and Chicago and peer-to-peer car-sharing in Germany.  It also includes a city-based car-rental service, similar to Zipcar, which allows residents to request the use of Chevrolet vehicles on a Maven smartphone app.

Ford Motor Co. has not said whether it has plans for rideshare partnerships, but Executive Chairman Bill Ford said last week Ford is working on strategies to develop transportation services such as ridesharing. The automaker launched a business unit this year called Ford Smart Mobility, a move to develop transportation-related services and new partnerships. In May 2015, Bill Ford's personal venture capital firm, Fontinalis Partners, said it was investing in Lyft but did not disclose the amount.

Tech companies are getting involved, too.  Apple Inc., for example, will invest $1 billion in Chinese ridehailing company Didi Chuxing, Apple said this month.