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VW Has Huge Mobility Plans For Its Moia Unit

VW will reach the top of the mobility market through its brand-new Moia subsidiary. The automaker has already established a partnership with Gett, however, Moia will also help to close the loop on mobility.
Posted: December 14, 2016 - 12:31AM
Author: Marc Stern

You have to give Volkswagen credit for ambition. Within the next decade, it wants to use ride-sharing to make it one of the top three mobility companies around. And, the way VW is setting up is, well, unique.

One would assume a business would take the usual steps to become a top contender – produce a better product; out-perform the competition, or create the “better mousetrap (as in build a better mousetrap and the world will beat a path to your door).” Instead of using one of those standard templates, Moia wants to challenge established public transportation.

Crossovers Will Be Drivers

To make its play, VW envisions using the Moia-branded electric vehicle, capable of seating six to eight people, who will share the ride. However, before it can get to this point, the automaker still has to get a foot in the new market. “In the U.S., there are some strong players, but there’s still a lot of opportunity,” says Ole Harms, chief executive of the new VW subsidiary. “Just look at the taxi market: 60 percent of taxes are still ordered by phone, so there’s huge potential.”

To effectively make its attack, Moia is seeking partners in the same manner that has resulted in GM’s massive investment in Uber rival, Lyft. Moia is in talks with a variety of businesses that it believes can help. They range from ride-sharing companies – there are several other local ride-sharing firms around the country similar to Uber and Lyft, but without the national or international pedigrees – to tech companies. Moia, whose war chest is in the hundreds of millions, will be spending freely over the next couple of years.

Moia will be customizing its marketing to the cities where it plans to compete. “It’s a very city-specific business. Obviously, it would be nice to have someone that already has a decent footprint in a couple of cities,” Harms mentioned in an interview last week with Automotive News. Its primary targets, at the current time, are cities on the East and West coasts.

The automaker is planning to use its Atlas crossover as its first primary multi-passenger people hauler to compete with bus-like services. In the near term, VW will show an electric shuttle-style vehicle.

VW Hires Daimler Vet

Moia has wasted little time hiring a veteran of the mobility industry from Daimler. Robert Henrich is Moia’s chief operating officer. He had headed Daimler’s Moovel mobility arm. Moovel operates the Car2Go operation. Car2Go uses blue-and-white Smart two-doors in the U.S. and Canada.

“What I like about that is that they made their mistakes. They know what works and what doesn’t,” Thomas Sedran, VW’s executive vice president for group strategy. “There are companies in Manhattan and other places that show the concept is not stupid, but we want to take it to the next level. Are we capable of doing it? I don’t know. But I have a team in place with nothing else to do but to deliver it.”