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The Spokesman-Review Newspaper
Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883


Ride sharing evolution

A few years back, the concept of ride sharing was just beginning to evolve.  Now popularized by companies like Zipcar, drivers can share cars with others without owning them, an adaptation of the taxicab concept without the taxi driver.

A hybrid adaptation of those entities has now given rapid rise to companies such as Uber and Lyft, also described under the umbrella of “ride sharing,” since those drivers use their own vehicles to share rides with others.  This ride sharing evolution promises to alter consumers’ attitudes toward mobility and vehicle ownership.

That prediction is not lost on the auto manufacturers, who believe that the trend will affect the way cars are built, marketed and purchased.

Just this month, Toyota has entered a partnership with Uber including a giant monetary investment.  At the same time, Volkswagen entered an agreement with a European ride hailing company, Gett, and BMW teamed up with Scoop Technologies Inc., a San Francisco maker of a car pooling app.

The goal of these pairings is still uncertain, but manufacturers want to be on the cusp of resulting market opportunities.  Both General Motors and Ford have previously declared substantial investment in Lyft.

Chris Ballinger, Toyota CFO and global chief officer of strategic innovation said, “The world is changing quickly, and there are lots of new business models to explore, lots of new things that OEMs [original equipment manufacturers) want to pilot and lots of ideas that are coming from a lot of nontraditional players.”

Volkswagen’s recent investment in Gett was $300 million.  According to VW CEO Matthias Mueller, “The partnership with Gett marks the first milestone for the Volkswagen group on the road to providing integrated mobility solutions that spotlight our customers and their mobility needs.”

BMW’s motivation is unclear, but has invested in Scoop, an available San Francisco app that connects people in that city who live in the same neighborhoods and work near one another to arrange carpools.

As part of GM’s $500 million Lyft investment, GM leases vehicles to Lyft drivers in Chicago and plans to expand the program to other cities.  A growing number of Lyft and Uber drivers make their sole income from those associations, and lenders have been previously reluctant to lend money to them for the purpose of leasing or purchasing automobiles.

While Ford has not disclosed its total investment in ride sharing, Executive Chairman Bill Ford says that the company is working on strategies to develop transportation services such as ride sharing.  This year, the automaker formed a business called Ford Smart Mobility, a move aimed at its effort to develop transportation-related services and new partnerships.

A number of tech companies, such as Apple and Google, are also investing in ride sharing entities.  For example, this month Apple announced a $1 billion investment in the Chinese ride hailing company, Didi Chuxing.

College students, city dwellers and senior citizens are all top prospects for ride sharing services, and ride share drivers need automobiles.  However it all turns out, motivation for the partnerships that auto manufacturers are now forming are a result of ride sharing and ride hailing popularity.  As consumer mobility habits change, automakers hope to be ready to adapt to the resulting market changes in vehicle purchasing.

Vehicle marketing/manufacturing must perpetually evolve, and that evolution is definitely tied to trends in ride sharing. Automakers are striving to stay ahead of the curve.

Readers may contact Bill Love via e-mail at