EghtesadOnline: Volkswagen AG, which is shifting priorities in the wake of the diesel scandal and stepping up competition against the likes of Uber Technologies Inc., plans to launch a business focused on ride-hailing, autonomous driving and electric cars in two European cities next year before expanding to other regions.
According to Bloomberg, the carmaker’s new mobility brand, Moia, will offer a glimpse of its first vehicle next summer and will eventually produce battery-powered, autonomous cars along with new forms of transportation including public shuttles, Ole Harms, the Volkswagen unit’s head, told reporters late Sunday in London. The German carmaker is open to selling a minority stake in the business, which is expected to generate revenue of “a couple of billion” of euros in a few years, he said.
“We’re a startup with VW group’s resources and we have a global aspiration,” Harms told reporters ahead of the unit’s official unveiling Monday at the Tech Crunch Disrupt conference. Moia, which will have 200 employees by the end of next year, will based in Berlin and could expand to the U.S., China or Latin America later.
Volkswagen, still recovering from the emissions-cheating scandal, has been cutting costs to free up funds to develop the electric cars, self-driving technologies and mobility apps that are increasingly dominating the industry. The German carmaker has been late to innovate, taking its first step to expand beyond its traditional business of manufacturing and selling cars in May by investing $300 million in ride-hailing provider Gett Inc. By contrast, Daimler AG founded carsharing service Car2Go in 2008 and has since added public transit and cab-hailing apps.
Making Moia the company’s 13th brand in a lineup that includes Audi and Porsche underscores VW’s strategic revamp to move beyond the scandal and prepare for a tectonic industry shift toward electric cars with new digital features that allow piloted driving or finding free parking spaces via apps.
Automakers across the globe have been stepping up efforts to expand digital offerings as Silicon Valley giants like Apple Inc. and Google Inc. are plotting inroads in the auto industry and manufacturers fight back to avoid being degraded to a mere hardware suppliers.
While sales of electric cars remain weak as consumers fret about their high pricing, limited battery range and lack of charging stations, automakers including Volkswagen are investing in the segment to meet ever-tighter regulations and keep up with new rivals including Tesla Motors Inc.