PARIS — While PSA Group works on fine-tuning its mobility services in the United States, it is learning from at least one failed operation launched in Europe.
PSA shut down its Multicity car-sharing service in Berlin on Oct. 29 after five years. The service offered more than 200 "free floating" Citroen electric C Zero and C1 supermini vehicles, but it faced strong competition from Daimler's Car2Go program.
Brigitte Courtehoux, PSA's senior vice president for mobility services, said PSA has learned valuable lessons from the demise of Multicity in Berlin. Speaking at a presentation of the company's mobility strategy and partnerships, including a new one with Chinese technology giant Huawei, Courtehoux said the program made some critical missteps.
"We learned that you need to put the cars in front of the customer," she said. "We didn't have enough cars," adding that some users had to walk a kilometer or more to find a car.
She also said that PSA was hampered by not having total control over the Multicity software, which had to accommodate the needs of service partner Deutsche Bahn.
"Now, we know how to enter a city, we know how to manage our customers, we know what to do," she said, citing the Emov service in Madrid, which PSA started last December and has 100,00 repeat users.
Carmakers are rushing to develop mobility divisions to address expected changes in ownership patterns. PSA is focusing on car sharing, connected fleet management, online sales of new and used cars, and after-sale repairs.
A new study by IHS Markit forecasts a major shift from "buying cars to buying mobility" that will disrupt the automotive industry. By 2040, the report found, total vehicle miles traveled in China, India and the United will increase by 65 percent to 11 billion, but at the same time car sales will have slowed "substantially."