Volkswagen is wasting no time after last week's news that it was plowing $300 million into Uber competitor Gett, announcing a series of initiatives today aimed at putting VW in the burgeoning post-car-ownership "mobility" business.
Part of the announcement — the largest, and also the least surprising — is that Volkswagen will be using Gett to spin up its global ride-hailing strategy. "Ride hailing will be at the center of our new ‘mobility on-demand' business, which we are building up as the second pillar alongside the classic automobile business," VW CEO Matthias Müller is quoted as saying. In return, Gett will get a boost opening and operating in markets where it currently does not; the ride-hailing service counts around 60 markets under its umbrella right now, while Volkswagen is one of the most global companies on the planet. As part of that, Volkswagen says that Gett will be launching in Berlin and other major German cities in the first half of next year.
The race to transform from a car company to a mobility company
Related to the ride-hailing partnership is a commitment to "explore" self-driving technology, though no detail is offered as to what that might look like, what markets might be tested first, or what vehicles would be used. Most large automakers are now actively exploring autonomous driving — as are major ride-hailing companies — and Volkswagen Group subsidiary Audi has been one of the more energetic developers of the technology over the past decade. The news comes just days after GM's all-electric Chevy Bolt was caught testing using autonomous equipment from Cruise Automation; GM and Lyft, which recently got a $500 million cash infusion from the Detroit automaker, have said that they plan on testing self-driving Lyft vehicles within a year.
Volkswagen also says that it will offer "special package offers" for financing, insurance, and service of cars used by Gett drivers. As with self-driving, this is becoming a trend as well — GM is working on similar deals, and Uber has aggressively moved into the finance space, as Bloomberg reported earlier this week. Such financing is seen as a double-edged sword — it pads automakers' sales and can let drivers who wouldn't otherwise qualify for financing get the vehicles they need to work for a ride-hailing service, but can also lock them into bad terms.