By on May 3, 2022

BMW and Mercedes-Benz are dumping ShareNow — their jointly managed car-sharing businesses — and Stellantis will reportedly become the recipient. Effectively a merger of BMW’s DriveNow and Mercedes’ (technically Daimler AG’s) slurry of similar services that were rolled into car2go, ShareNow’s individual components have spent the last decade trying to figure out which markets would embrace app-based, roadside rentals charging by the minute and which would reject it. 

As with most ride-sharing firms, it took years of trial and error to learn how best to manage a decentralized fleet that’s still beholden to a single cooperate entity. Pricing also represented a challenge, with similar businesses initially trying to keep rates low to grow their user base before getting to the tricky business of finagling real profitability. However, this ultimately forced ShareNow to downsize in 2019, pulling out of the United States entirely to better prioritize Europe.

The company now limits itself to fifteen of the continent’s most densely packed cities, with management citing increased costs and competition the further it ventured from Western Europe. But this was exactly what Stellantis was looking for, according to Reuters:

Brigitte Courtehoux, who heads Stellantis’ mobility division Free2move, said the deal was part of the group’s plans to grow net revenue from that business to 700 million euros ($735 million) in 2025 and to 2.8 billion euros in 2030, up from 40 million euros last year.

“We will really accelerate in terms of revenue,” she said.

Stellantis will strengthen its mobility division Free2move via the deal, hoping a global push to cut emissions will also drive demand for car-sharing and open new profit streams.

Over the next decade, Stellantis intends to expand Free2move’s presence worldwide, growing it to 15 million active users.

It’s sort of a curious decision, considering the service it’s buying literally attempted the same thing and ended up downsizing to focus almost entirely on German cities and a handful of European metropolises beyond the borders of Deutschland. BMW and Mercedes’ joint operation is currently presumed to lose 200 million euros per year. But Stellantis believes it has a secret weapon in terms of product.

ShareNow presently offers a mix of smaller vehicles from BMW, Mini, Mercedes, and Smart that differs between regions. Free2move would gradually replace those with offerings from Jeep, Peugeot, and Fiat. Stellantis also wants to have entirely electrified fleets in Europe by 2030 and the U.S. by 2035.

“Maybe Stellantis, with its low financial investment and a leaner cost structure, can make more out of it,” Juergen Pieper, an analyst at Bankhaus Metzler, suggested.

Pieper has estimated that the transaction likely wouldn’t exceed $525 million and was likely closer to $262 million. However other outlets have cited the deal as being closer to $100 million.

[Image: Dutchmen Photography/Shutterstock]

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9 Comments on “BMW & Mercedes Offload Car Sharing Business...”

  • avatar

    What is going on over there at Stellantis? It’s almost like they have new management or something.

  • avatar
    SCE to AUX

    In the US, sharing a car – or even a lawnmower – marks you as a communist. Such an idea is/was foolhardy here.

    But sharing Netflix passwords was cool until their business tanked.

  • avatar

    Car sharing is great in theory, but I would imagine it’s a PITA both as a customer and the company managing the fleet. Single brands offering this just don’t have the variety.

    If I did this, I would want a Corvette, a Merc, a Jeep, a 90’s BMW and a Tesla to shuffle. Can’t imagine the costs of maintaining that variety in a fleet and renting them out. Is there a market big enough to support basically what Turo is doing but have someone serving as the concierge? I doubt it.

    • 0 avatar

      Don’t forget about Zipcar, which was one of the first car sharing companies in the US, founded in around 2000. They were the big East Coast brand and merged with FlexCar (the big West Coast brand) in 2007. They were acquired by Avis 2013.

      In the US, Zipcar operates as a “pod-based” service where the cars are live in specific locations and must be returned there at the end of the trip, like Turo and getaround. In London and perhaps some other European cities, they operate a floating model like ShareNow.

      I noticed that at some point in the last 2 years, Zipcar relaunched Flexcar as a sub-brand offering a flexible car leasing alternative. Interesting.

      Car sharing, either floating or pod based works best when you have sufficient density to make the cars convenient. People don’t want to have to walk more than 10 to 15 minutes to pick up a car. Interestingly, you have some rental car services like Kyte, that will deliver a car to you.

      Uber & Lyft took a huge chunk of the trips that people had been using Zipcar sub optimally for, either one way trips or very short trips. Floating car sharing services that allow people to potentially pick up a car closer to their start location and drop it closer to their destination may have seen less of a hit.

      You also have the issue that since the cars are unattended, you’re relying on the good behavior of the customer population. For the most part, this works fine, but if your fleet has high utilization, then one barfed-in car and disrupt a large number of reservations.

  • avatar

    Sharing e-bikes and scooters is just a better business model than sharing cars. The right future for car rental to carless urban dwellers is less about two-mile trips in the city and more about letting people rent for a day or a few days for longer trips or bigger projects. It’s probably more center-city locations of traditional rental car companies.

    (Full disclosure: I probably rent a shared e-bike an average of once every couple days, and most of the trips I use them for would just be clumsy with a car.)

  • avatar

    Why would Stellantis invest in a failing service? There must be some sort of twisted incentive here.

    That, or they are nuts.

    There is evidence the ShareNow management was also addled. First, they abandoned gasoline and went electric. Then they went out of business in the U.S. and one of their excuses was… “limited infrastructure for supporting electric vehicles.”


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