French tech company Vulog helps PSA, Kia move into the mobility space

Fast-growing French mobility technology company Vulog offers products and services to help companies launch ride-sharing or short-term rental businesses. The 12-year-old company’s recent projects include Wible, a short-term car rental service in Madrid with Kia and Repsol as well as PSA Group’s Free2Move short-term rental programs in Washington, D.C., and Wuhan, China. Vulog CEO Gregory Duconge outlined how his company is helping automakers become mobility providers in an interview with Automotive News Europe Correspondent Peter Sigal.

How would you describe Vulog’s business model?

We make it possible for any company — an automaker, an insurance company, a car rental company, even a tech startup — to launch mobility services such as car-sharing. We provide the full technology stack to enable these services. We have about 25 customers all over the world, including PSA and Kia. Each customer has launched car-sharing services with hundreds of cars.

What do you mean when you talk about the “technology stack”?

We are providing a software platform with some predictive capabilities, which are really important to optimize the service and revenue. A lot of it is fleet balancing to respond to customer demand, to make sure you have the right car in the right place at the right time. We also offer a mobile app that customers can adapt to their needs, and we have analytics to manage the service. In some cases, we are providing automaker-compliant hardware to have a real connected vehicle.

How does Vulog make money?

Every time a car is used, we receive licensing fees from our customers. Our revenue is confidential, but we have had some significant growth in the past three years. Today we have about 100 employees. We have offices in Nice, Paris, San Francisco, China and Toronto.

What are your growth objectives?

We aim to double our fleet. Today we have 10,000 cars under management. The market is pretty small but it will grow dramatically in the coming years. We know the future of mobility will change. It will be electric and shared. And, a lot of cities are pushing car-sharing solutions. What we also see, especially in Europe, is that automakers need to push electric vehicles on the market to be compliant with coming emissions regulations. Car-sharing is one solution.

What kinds of companies are poised to be winners in mobility services?

We are at the beginning of the story so it’s hard to forecast. I think car dealerships or distributors have a good chance, because they know their market and they have a very close relationship with their customers. Automakers clearly have to get into this space because in 10 years it will be a question of survival for many of them. But it will be a big challenge because they have to become more business-to-customer companies. That is a big step for them, and they are getting into mobility services to learn.

What about rental car companies?

They are doing a terrific jobs renting cars, but nobody likes going to a traditional rental agency. I don’t think these companies realize how painful it is for the end user. They have a really huge market, but I’m not sure they really see that they are in danger. If you need a car, and you are able to find one on your street, you don’t need to go to a Hertz or Avis.

When will we see mobility as a service become a significant business and what are the main hurdles to making this a reality?

We think the market will strongly ramp up in mid-2020. It will go very fast. However, I don’t expect robotaxis to be in large-scale use or to replace car ownership for another 10 years. But I think you will see some small services of that kind soon, maybe by 2021, in restricted areas on secured roads for specific trips. If you can provide a large density of cars, then people will switch to mobility services. In Vancouver, people are keeping their first car but getting rid of their second car. When they need a car, they know they can find one with a local car-sharing service. In Madrid it’s a little bit different. You really see the young generation, millennials especially, getting into car-sharing because they simply can’t afford to spend too much money on owning a car.

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