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BMW’s Mobility Strategy: Partner or Sell

Profits elude BMW-Daimler venture.
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BMW says it intends to either add partners or sell off its mobility venture with Daimler.

Either way, CEO Oliver Zipse says the company wants to continue to participate in the emerging market for ride-hailing, car-sharing and related mobility services.

Right now, BMW is doing that through Free Now. The business is the current iteration of an 11-year-old European service called myTaxi, whose parent was acquired by Daimler in 2014.

No Traction

Last year MyTaxi morphed into Free Now. It’s one of the five business units of Your Now, a 50:50 venture formed last year by BMW and Daimler. The partners announced plans to invest $1.1 billion in the partnership, whose ride-hailing, ride-sharing, electric car charging and parking services claimed a combined 60 million active customers.

The company had hoped to turn their venture into a money-maker by now. It hasn’t worked out that way.

Within a year, the Berlin-based venture was scaling back some of its offerings. Last month, Uber reportedly offered $1.2 billion to buy the Free Now unit, according to Germany’s Manager Magazin.

The business magazine said Daimler was ready to bail out. But BMW seemed more interested in allowing Uber to buy into the venture instead. Uber apparently is interested only in Free Now’s ride-hailing operations in Europe and Latin America.

Now What?

Zipse’s comment about selling or partnering up indicates that the two German carmakers haven’t yet found a formula for success.

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