Mercedes-Benz’s London Ride-Sharing Plan Is a Challenge to UberBy and
Partner Via is said to raise $200 million in funding round
Venture to use customized Mercedes-Benz Vito and V-Class vans
Daimler AG will start ride-sharing shuttles in London later this year, expanding its cooperation with U.S. startup Via Transportation Inc., whose on-demand service racks up 1 million rides a month across New York, Chicago and Washington.
The mobile app-based pick-up service, based in Amsterdam, will be rolled out soon to more European cities, Stuttgart, Germany-based Daimler and Via said Monday in a joint statement.
Via, working with Daimler since 2015, plans to raise a total of $200 million for the expansion, people familiar with the process said. While Daimler is the lead investor, the parties didn’t disclose a funding amount. Adding to the strategic investment, Daimler’s Mercedes-Benz Vans unit will contribute $50 million to the new partnership.
“On-demand ride-sharing offers many new ways of making city traffic efficient, needs-based and sustainable,” said Volker Mornhinweg, head of Mercedes-Benz Vans. “Via is one of the most successful providers in the growing ride-sharing sector while Mercedes-Benz Vans has the perfect vehicles.”
Carmakers are increasing investments in partnerships with companies offering new services as urban consumers show less interest in owning a car. Toyota Motor Corp. last month invested an undisclosed amount in Grab, Southeast Asia’s leading ride-hailing operator, a year after it bought a small stake in San Francisco-based industry heavyweight Uber Technologies Inc.
Offering rides in specially customized Mercedes Vito and V-Class vans will boost Daimler’s suite of services beyond selling vehicles, in addition to its Car2Go car-sharing program and Mytaxi hailing and Moovel transport apps. The venture with New York-based Via will be open to cooperating with public-transport authorities for licensing, Daimler said.
The Via service works by connecting multiple passengers who are headed the same way, allowing riders to share a vehicle. It was first offered in New York in 2013. Users request a shared ride through an app, and an algorithm finds a suitable vehicle headed in the same direction, reducing detours.
Combining Via’s technology with Mercedes-Benz Vans was “ideal for our vision of offering efficient, affordable, sustainable, and convenient shared rides everywhere,” Via Chief Executive Officer Daniel Ramot said in the statement.