U.s. Top dog sets sights on german market

Andre Haddad thinks that the Germans’ love of their cars is not all that special and unique. "Even in the USA, we love our cars," he says.

And yet many people there would have no problem letting strangers have their keys for a few days in exchange for money – just as they do with their apartments. And Haddad is convinced that the Germans are not much more skeptical than the Americans.

Since Friday the US provider Turo tries itself in Germany. Haddad is the head of this peer-to-peer car-sharing platform, where private individuals can rent out their vehicles to other private individuals on a daily basis. Anyone familiar with Airbnb, where people temporarily leave their rooms, apartments or entire houses to strangers from around the world, will quickly recognize the system. You enter on a website or in a cell phone app when you need where for how long what kind of vehicle, and the platform mediates a landlord who has exactly that on offer. He in turn pays a kind of commission to Turo. Allianz insures the cars for the rental period.

The Americans are not alone in this on the German market. The French company Drivy, for example, which says it is the market leader in Europe, points to 1.5 million users and 45,000 cars in the UK, France, Germany, Spain, Austria and Belgium. The Dutch Snappcar has almost 400,000 users and around 45,000 cars in the Netherlands, Denmark, Sweden and Germany. Both have taken over a German provider, both also work with Allianz.

"We are very satisfied with the development of Drivy in Germany," says the responsible manager Nils Robmeisl. With more than 6,000 cars and a good 200,000 users, he says, it’s the second-largest market after his native France and ahead of Spain. The main task here in Germany is to first create awareness for Car-Sharing among potential landlords and tenants.

Turo is not starting from scratch either: With the start, the platform Croove from Daimler is absorbed into it. The Stuttgart-based carmaker, which also owns the car-sharing provider Car2Go, joined Turo last year. Daimler does not want to reveal how big Croove has been so far. Only this much: One is content with the growth.

Turo has set its sights on nothing less than market leadership in Germany by the end of the year. The platform has more than five million members and 200,000 cars in the U.S., Canada and the U.K. "The business is growing very quickly," says Haddad. In six to twelve months, the "critical mass" could be reached in Berlin and Munich – i.e., so many users that the system functions reasonably. In cities like Stuttgart, Frankfurt or Cologne, it will probably be two to three years, he believes.

Local Turo boss Marcus Riecke, formerly with StudiVZ and most recently with the neighborhood platform Nextdoor, among others, considers Germany to be a worthwhile destination, partly because of the large car market. It is also a popular travel destination, especially for visitors from abroad. And, as Haddad also emphasizes, the so-called sharing economy, i.e. the joint use of things instead of ownership, is doing well in Germany.

In the experience of Drivy CEO Robmeisl, however, Germans are somewhat different from others. "In France and Spain, the car is primarily seen as a means of transport, not as a status symbol, as is still more the case in Germany," he says. Also the offer is used there more by holiday-makers. "In our area, Drivy is especially attractive to city dwellers who want to get out of town for a few days or need a vehicle for transportation or moving house."

Overall, however, car manufacturers have also recognized that owning a car is no longer the ultimate goal for many people in this country. And that also explains the growing involvement of manufacturers in the field of mobility services, even if, strictly speaking, this is detrimental to their core business, selling cars. The motto is: If we don’t do it, someone else will, and they’ll make money out of it.

Haddad says that ultimately everyone benefits: the tenants, who are mobile without their own cars, and the rental companies, who can earn money with their cars, which would otherwise be sitting around uselessly most of the time. On average, nine days of rental per month are enough to recoup the running costs, he reckons.

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