Software is eating the world. And now, it’s taking a bite of the auto industry.
PSA North America chief Larry Dominique dropped by Automotive News this week to further outline the French group's plan to enter the cut-throat North American market, not as an automaker, but as a mobility services company. The next step: a Zipcar type car-sharing service in the third quarter under the company's Free2Move subbrand, to be launched in an undisclosed East Coast city.
Dominique's plan to bridge mobility and actually selling metal is still opaque, but what's clear is the former Nissan executive is being creative in the face of considerable challenges.
First, PSA launched Free2Move — essentially a mobile app that allows consumers to tap into a smorgasbord of car sharing and ride hailing services. The mobility play is a Trojan Horse of sorts, allowing PSA to gradually re-introduce its brands, including Citroen, Peugeot, Opel and other brands, to American consumers.
Now, the company wants to take the next step with its car-sharing service. But while other manufacturers may use mobility subbrands as a means to get consumers — especially ownership-averse young people — into its cars to inform future purchase decisions, Dominique said this isn't his strategy. For good reason: At least initially, they don't have brand vehicles to fill the fleet.
“We obviously don’t have any PSA vehicles that are homologated for the North American market yet,” Dominique said. “So, we’re going to be launching this car sharing (service) with another brand’s vehicles.”
The fleet will include 500-to-600 sedans and crossovers from a yet-to-be-identified brand.
“The goal for us is to put the right vehicles in the service, to maximize the customer satisfaction and utilization rate of the vehicles,” Dominique said.
With talk of utilization rates, residual vehicle values, and the competitive urban carsharing landscape, one might forget Dominique leads a branch of a major European carmaker. In fact, he's currently working with a small team out of WeWork offices, shared spaces that befit entrepreneurs and small startups rather than car companies.
Many companies may try and instill a startup spirit in their employees through creative corporate structuring. But you could also take the PSA North America path — strip down, and, y'know, just do it.
— Urvaksh Karkaria