PSA Group's fledgling Free2Move short-term rental service in Washington, D.C., is "very close" to being a sustainable business, PSA North America CEO Larry Dominique said Wednesday.
But getting this far has taken significant time and investment, he acknowledged.
"It's only after 24 months of focused, single-city attention to cost, depreciation and how best to satisfy car-sharing consumers," Dominique said in a Zoom presentation during the CAR Management Briefing Seminars.
The French automaker, which owns storied brands Peugeot and Citroen, is reentering the U.S. on a nontraditional path. PSA first established itself here as a mobility company, providing consumers with ride-hailing and rental services. PSA is using its interactions with consumers in mobility settings to learn what they like and don't like about vehicles. Those lessons will shape its product and retail strategy in North America.
Automakers have entered the mobility services business with mixed success. Last fall, BMW and Daimler merged their mobility services into a joint venture called Share Now. But just a few months later, the partners announced plans to halt the service in North America, citing rising operating costs.
"As an industry, we have taken a bit of a shotgun approach, trying many things in hopes something stuck," Dominique said. "In discussion with many OEM executives, it doesn't seem the intent was really to address the mobility needs of consumers and cities. It was more to protect vehicle production and sales."
PSA is taking a measured approach with its short-term rental service.
"We purposely have not expanded beyond D.C. so we can prove viability," Dominique said. "Once achieved, we can scale our learning carefully to other cities."
For mobility services to succeed, it will require greater collaboration between operators and city and state governments on such matters as developing free charging infrastructure, free parking, dedicated lanes and consumer outreach.
PSA meets regularly with Washington transportation officials to discuss ways to reduce congestion, simplify parking and bring mobility options to residents, Dominique said.
"In a post-COVID environment, where close-proximity mass transit is more challenged, less dense, alternative modes of transportation will be required," he said.