Last week Daimler made another step to deepen its involvement in the access economy by partnering and investing an undisclosed sum in the world’s leading ridesharing network, carpooling.com. Daimler is not the first car company embracing the access economy – the list of car companies that get involved with sharing platforms include companies like GM, BMW, Volkswagen and Toyota. Yet, with its previous involvement in the access economy, which includes Car2go (car sharing) and car2gether (ride sharing 2.0 as Daimler calls it), the current partnership positions Daimler as a leader among car companies when it comes to the sharing space.
This partnership is not just an important milestone for Daimler, but also for carpooling.com. While the company is already the world‘s leading ridesharing network, with 4 million registered users and daily access to more than 650,000 rides, it still has a huge growth potential, both in terms of geographical markets and services. The company aims to increase its global presence, launching soon its service in the U.S., and also has the potential to add more smart mobility services. To do so it needs a strategic partner just like Daimler. To learn more on this partnership, I interviewed Markus Barnikel, CEO of carpooling.com.
Triple Pundit: How the new partnership is going to benefit carpooling.com?
Markus Barnikel: carpooling.com is experiencing very strong growth. We are developing new apps, improving our service and want to make our offerings available in even more countries, including those outside Europe. To do that, we have to invest a great deal in technology and human resources, among other things. That’s why we’re increasing our capital. We looked for a partner who had the best alignment with our strategic goals, someone who believed that mobility today has to change. Daimler has a worldwide presence, they are a leader in innovative transport solutions and they share our vision of building the world´s No 1 smart mobility platform. We are very happy that they support our strategy and future growth.
3p: Why do you think car companies like Daimler (GM is another example) invest in ridesharing and car sharing, which seems to reduce the need in more cars on the roads?
MB: The explosive growth of ridesharing and car sharing platforms has underscored a major paradigm shift in the way we experience transport. Today, people are more willing to share, more mobile and more prepared to adapt their travel habits to ecological concerns.
When you think about it, there’s not really a contradiction between auto manufacturers and carpooling. That’s because carpooling increases the utilization factor of the existing vehicle population and makes driving more ecologically compatible, affordable and thus more attractive. And the more often you use a car, the sooner you’ll have to buy a new one.
3p: Daimler is already involved in couple of other mobility initiatives (car2go, car2gether) - do you have plans to integrate all these services under carpooling.com?
MB: We have already integrated offers from other mobility providers including bus, airlines and rail companies. We are, of course, also open to partnerships with peer-to-peer or car sharing platforms like car2go. At the end of the day, the most important thing is what the users want – and if that means incorporating car sharing, bicycles or even jet-skis rides then that’s what we’ll endeavor to do.
So, yes, we’re definitely open to the idea but at the moment our focus is on international growth. We want to offer our service to more people in more countries.
3p: You said that "we will be utilizing the new capital to further improve our offerings, broaden our customer service and make carpooling available to even more users worldwide" - can you share any specifics?
MB: We are currently experiencing explosive growth in the 45 countries where we have already successfully established our service and we continue to get requests from all over the world. We want to invest in developing new apps, improving our booking system and increasing our team. In terms of specifics, the first big step will be launching our platform in the US.
3p: When do you plan to launch your operations in the U.S.? Do you have any particular adjustments you plan to make to fit this market?
MB: We haven’t confirmed a launch date for the U.S. but we’re shooting for Q4. Obviously, entering a new market always presents a bit of a challenge. What users may value in the U.S. may be very different to users in France, Germany or Italy. That said, wherever you are, affordable transport is always going to be a universal concern. Everywhere, we see that people are looking for solutions to high gas prices, long distance commutes or poor public transportation alternatives.
In the U.S. the existing infrastructure for carpooling is excellent because people own cars. The estimated number of empty seats in an average trip is 3.75 and the total number of Vehicle Miles Traveled (VMT) in the US is around 3 trillion. This is a country where people drive a lot, where distances are increasingly longer, where traffic is always an issue and where commuting is getting more expensive every day. The U.S. is also a country that embraces innovative ideas when they make sense. So, yes, there are a lot of challenges but there’s also great potential.
Raz Godelnik is the co-founder of Eco-Libris, a green company working to green up the book industry in the digital age. He is an adjunct faculty at the University of Delaware’s Business School, CUNY SPS and the New School, teaching courses in green business and new product development.