Peugeot Scouts for Startups to Counter Silicon Valley Car Threat

  • Carmaker invested in venture fund that backed Deezer
  • Tech collaboration at new unit can take “different forms”

The maker of Peugeot and Citroen vehicles is ramping up its venture-capital investments to gain access to technologies for next-generation cars, ranging from ride-sharing apps to batteries to cloud computing.

PSA Group, Europe’s second-biggest auto manufacturer, will invest in venture capital funds through its new Business Lab unit, which will allow the carmaker to acquire stakes in startups that don’t want direct involvement from a large company, said Anne Laliron, head of the division. The fund made its first investment in an asset-manager that backed music-streaming service Deezer.

“Venture development is a brand-new tool for us,” Laliron said by phone. “Some startups don’t have an interest in having a corporate investor, so we’re looking to collaborate with them under different forms.”

PSA’s Business Lab, tasked with finding and testing new technologies, is part of a push into mobility services that Chief Executive Officer Carlos Tavares outlined in April amid an industrywide shift toward low-emissions driving, digital offerings and vehicle-ownership options. Traditional carmakers are competing with rivals including Uber Technologies Inc. and Apple Inc. who are developing new modes of transportation.

Volkswagen AG, Europe’s biggest carmaker, introduced its Moia mobility-services business this week, projecting that the division will generate a significant share of its income in the coming years, while Daimler AG rolled out its private car-sharing platform Croove.

Since announcing its mobility strategy, PSA has unveiled investments in Canadian auto-sharing provider Communauto and French counterparts Koolicar and TravelerCar as well as Denmark’s Autobutler, an online platform to connect repair garages with customers. It’s also introduced a standalone brand, Free2move, for vehicle sharing, fleet management, car leasing and connected services.

In addition to the fund, which is starting with 100 million euros ($107 million) of capital, the Business Lab will also seek direct partnerships with suppliers of mobility technology, said Laliron. The unit’s focus will be on clean technology, artificial intelligence, analytics and electronic commerce.

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