industry: auto

Lime is debuting its line of shareable vehicles in Seattle this week

Lime is debuting its line of shareable vehicles in Seattle this week

Excerpts from the article by Kate Clark on TechCrunch

Lime, the well-funded startup known for its fleet of brightly colored dockless bicycles and electric scooters, has a new way for its customers to get around: cars.

Beginning this week, Lime users in Seattle will be able to reserve a “LimePod,” a Lime-branded 2018 Fiat 500, within the Lime mobile app. There will be 50 cars available to start as part of the company’s initial rollout. Lime plans to increase that number at the end of the month.

“LimePods, Lime’s car-sharing product line, a convenient, affordable, weather-resistant mobility solution for communities,” a spokesperson for Lime said in a statement provided to TechCrunch. “The ease of use of finding, unlocking, and paying for cars will be consistent with how riders use Lime scooters and e-bikes today.”

Rides in the LimePod will cost $1 to unlock the car and 40 cents per minute of use. The company plans to unleash additional shareable cars in California early next year. Its scooters and e-bikes, for reference, are $1 to unlock and 15 cents per minute and regular pedal bikes are $1 to unlock and 5 cents per minute.

Founded in 2017 by Berkeley graduates Toby Sun and Brad Bao, the startup has raised a total of $467 million to date from GV, Andreessen Horowitz, IVP, Section 32, GGV Capital and more. Reports indicate that Lime is on the fundraising circuit now, targeting a $3 billion valuation, or nearly 3x its latest valuation.

The company is expanding rapidly, most recently releasing a fleet of e-scooters and bikes in Australia, as well as making notable hires on what seems like a weekly basis. In the last month, Lime has tapped Joe Kraus, a general partner at Alphabet’s venture arm GV and an existing member of the startup’s board of directors, as its first chief operating officer. Before that, it brought on Uber’s former chief business officer David Richter as its first-ever chief business officer and interim chief financial officer.

In July, the company hired Peter Dempster from ReachNow to lead the LimePod initiative out of Seattle.

Ford buys electric scooter startup Spin

Ford buys electric scooter startup Spin

Excerpts from the article by Megan Rose Dickey on TechCrunch

Ford is buying electric scooter startup Spin, Axios reports. The deal, according to a source close to the matter, “the total consideration in the deal was close to $100m.” Axios had previously reported the price tag was around $40 million.

Spin currently operates its scooters in Coral Gables, Fla., Washington, D.C., Charlotte, N.C., Durham, N.C., Lexington, Ky., Denver, Colo., Detroit, Mich. and Long Beach, Calif. In addition to operating throughout specific cities, Spin is live on five college campuses.

Spin was one of the three companies that initially deployed its scooters in San Francisco back in March. Along with Bird and Lime, Spin was forced to remove its electric scooters from the city until the city determined a permitting process. Since failing to receive a permit to operate, Spin has been one of the more quiet scooter startups in the industry. Though, next week, Spin is meeting with the city of San Francisco to appeal the denial of its permit to operate electric scooters in the city.

As of June, Spin had a contract with electric scooter manufacturer Ninebot, owned by Segway, to purchase 30,000 scooters a month through the end of this year, according to a source. It’s not completely clear why Ford feels the need to acquire Spin — let alone any electric scooter company — instead of just forming partnerships with scooter manufacturers to launch its own service.

That same month, Spin was in the process of finalizing a $125 million security token. The idea with Spin’s security token offering is to raise money from accredited investors, who will then be entitled to a portion of the revenue from Spin’s electric scooter operations, according to a source close to Spin. With STOs, investors can buy tokens that are linked to real-world financial instruments. In the case of Spin’s offering, the tokens are linked to its revenue. Spin had previously raised $8 million in traditional venture funding.

In recent years, Ford has also purchased commuter shuttle service Chariot, as well as Autonomic and TransLoc.

In February, Spin officially entered the electric scooter space after first deploying stationless bikes in South San Francisco and Seattle. Spin had previously only operated a bike-share platform. Last August, Spin brought its stationless bike-share program to South San Francisco after launching in Seattle earlier that year. Then, in January, Spin unveiled its stationless electric bike. However, Spin is now solely focused on electric scooters, according to a source close to Spin.

Over the last year or so, shared electric scooter services have gone from being non-existent to almost everywhere, operated by nearly everyone you would and would not expect. That includes Bird, the Santa Monica-based scooter startup worth north of $2 billion, Lime, another electric scooter unicorn that recently formed a partnership with Uber, Uber’s JUMP, Boosted Board co-founder Sanjay Dastoor’s new startup Skip, Lyft and so many others.

Toyota to launch 'subscription' car service in January

Toyota to launch 'subscription' car service in January

Excerpts from the article by Nikkei Staff

Toyota Motor will next year launch a service that will allow customers to try various car models for a fixed monthly fee in Japan. The new offering is part of the company's efforts to explore new business opportunities that do not depend on new car sales alone.

Toyota will become the first Japanese automaker to launch such a "subscription" service, envisioning cases where customers could, for example, use its Lexus sedan for a certain period of time and then switch to an SUV.

The company will consider introducing the scheme overseas as well, including in Asia.

Toyota plans to launch the service at its affiliated dealerships in Tokyo as early as January, and then expand it to other regions. The automaker will build a system for the new service so that it can make use of dealerships' cars. The move is also aimed at providing its customers with an opportunity to try various car models and increase options for future purchases.

BMW of Germany already offers a subscription type of car service in the U.S. state of Tennessee, with monthly fees starting at around $1,100 for new cars. In Japan, a major used-car dealer has partnered with BMW and begun subscriptions for new Mini brand cars in October. Monthly charges start at around 80,000 yen ($709).

Toyota has not finalized details of the new service yet, including available car models and monthly charges. But it will likely be similar to existing services provided by its competitors.

Drivers, for their part, will have to pay more, in terms of monthly basis, than they would by owning a single car, but they will be free from paying insurance and maintenance costs.

Toyota will provide the car-sharing management system to its 5,000 or so dealerships across Japan. Customers will be able to complete booking and payment on their smartphones.

The automaker will utilize its pool of about 40,000 test-driving cars for the service. Demand for such test cars is generally low during daytime on weekdays, and idle cars could be allocated to users who need a car for short rides.

According to the Tokyo-based Foundation for Promoting Personal Mobility and Ecological Transportation, the number of car-sharing memberships in Japan has increased 4.5 times over the five years through March to 1.3 million. On the other hand, the domestic new-car market in 2017 totaled 5.2 million cars, about 30% down from its peak in 1990.

Porsche, Range Rover and more added to auto dealer's luxury rental program

Excerpts from the article by Dan Eaton on Columbus Business First

Porsche, Range Rover and more added to auto dealer's luxury rental program

Germain Automotive Group’s car subscription service blew past its initial goal as it prepares to expand.

Last fall, the Columbus-based auto dealership group launched Drive Germain, a monthly car subscription service that allows its members to flip from vehicle to vehicle as their needs and desires demand.

“It’s scary when you start something like this,” Austin Germain, chief “flip” officer (aka the head of Drive Germain program). “You know that it sounds like a good idea, but you always wonder if people will respond.”

They have.

The company set a goal of 50 signups for the year. It already has surpassed 60.

Germain said that figure includes folks who have stayed in the program as well as others who have used it for a shorter period, either as a bridge between vehicle purchases or as “a long-term test drive,” to put it one way. The short-term users aren’t an issue because many of them then chose to purchase a car through Germain.

“This is a service our competition doesn’t provide,” Germain said. “Even if they don’t stay in the program, we’ve been able to form connections with those consumers.”

Now the program is adding on its higher tier option of vehicles. Tier one launched last fall and for $1,000 a month (plus a $500 one-time activation fee) users have can choose from among vehicles including the Audi A4, BMW 3 Series, Toyota Tundra and Honda Odyssey.

The average price of the cars on that tier is $45,000. The subscription covers vehicles, insurance, maintenance, roadside assistance and includes unlimited miles and unlimited exchanges.

Tier two goes live May 1 at $1,500 a month with choices including a 2018 Porsche Macan, 2018 Range Rover Sport, a Chevrolet Corvette and other sport and luxury choices. Average value of those vehicles is $70,000.

Germain had the task of picking the vehicles for the upper tier offering.

“It’s like a curator at an art museum, trying to pick the best you have to offer,” he said. “I looked at performance, luxury, size, brand recognition.”

The emphasis is on vehicles people might want to drive for a short period of time, but might not want to own.

“You look for different things if you’re planning to drive a car for three years versus three weeks,” Germain said. “I looked for bold colors, performance features.”

Atlanta-based Clutch Technologies, which works with other dealer groups around the country too, is Germain’s partner on the program.

“We started this as a way to change the look of retail,” Germain said. “You have subscription services for glasses, movies, clothing, dog toys. Granted, this is a little more extreme than BarkBox, but why not cars?”

Raed the article on Columbus Business First

All you need for a Volvo XC40 subscription is your iPhone

Excerpts from the article by Rob LeFebvre on Engadget

All you need for a Volvo XC40 subscription is your iPhone

Getting a new car is getting even easier these days. BMW, Lexus and Volvo have all started selling cars via subscription. The Care by Volvo program gives you an all-wheel-drive XC40, insurance, routine maintenance, roadside assistance and no money down for $600 a month. That sounds pretty great, but it's also super easy to sign up. Now you can sign up and pay for your monthly car sub via an iOS app and Apple Pay.

You can use any iOS device to run the Care by Volvo app, of course, and both Touch ID and Face ID work to authorize the payment. The app allows you to take a virtual tour of the XC40, configure your own with options and fill out your details for the subscription. All of this right from the app — no need to visit the website. Once you submit all your details, a Volvo concierge will get in touch to coordinate delivery.

Read more on Engadget