VW will launch com­pany to chal­lenge Uber, oth­ers

The Denver Post - - BUSINESS - By Wil­liam Bos­ton

Volk­swa­gen AG on Mon­day launched a new com­pany to chal­lenge Uber Tech­nolo­gies Inc. and other tech ri­vals, seek­ing to be­come a global force in the dig­i­tal auto ser­vices that are threat­en­ing es­tab­lished car­mak­ers.

The move marks the lat­est step by the Wolfs­burg, Ger­many-based au­tomaker to get past an emis­sions-cheat­ing scan­dal that has cost the com­pany nearly $20 bil­lion. The scan­dal has threat­ened to slow Volk­swa­gen’s ef­forts to catch up with ri­val car­mak­ers as they move into new tech­nol­ogy ser­vices that are trans­form­ing the auto in­dus­try.

Volk­swa­gen said the new com­pany, to be called Moia, will be based in Ber­lin, which has a vi­brant startup scene, putting it at arm’s length from Volk­swa­gen’s cor­po­rate head­quar­ters in Wolfs­burg.

“We want to prove that it is pos­si­ble to cre­ate in­no­va­tive mo­bil­ity ser­vices out­side Sil­i­con Val­ley,” Moia CEO Ole Harms told par­tic­i­pants at the TechCrunch Dis­rupt con­fer­ence in Lon­don.

One of Moia’s busi­nesses al­ready is op­er­at­ing: the Gett ride-hail­ing ser­vice, in which Volk­swa­gen ac­quired a strate­gic stake in May for $300 mil­lion. Moia plans next year to launch an­other ser­vice, an app­based shuttle, or ride-pool­ing ser­vice us­ing elec­tric vans to trans­port com­muters.

Be­fore the emis­sions scan­dal, Volk­swa­gen man­age­ment was slow to pur­sue de­vel­op­ment of elec­tric ve­hi­cles and new dig­i­tal busi­nesses, fall­ing be­hind ri­vals while up­starts such as Tesla Mo­tors Co. and Uber es­tab­lished them­selves as new play­ers in the global auto game.

The Ger­man com­pany still has much catch­ing up to do.

Ja­pan’s Nis­san Mo­tor Co. launched the Leaf, an elec­tric com­pact car, in 2010. Daim­ler AG, maker of Mercedes-Benz cars, launched its Car2Go car­shar­ing ser­vice in 2008, fol­lowed by BMW AG and its DriveNow ser­vice. In Jan­uary, Gen­eral Mo­tors Co. in­vested $500 mil­lion in Uber ri­val Lyft Inc. GM’s move on Lyft spurred Volk­swa­gen into ac­tion.

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