The parent company of the Peugeot and Citroen auto brands, PSA Group, has partnered with the French insurance firm MAIF to invest around $16 million into the carsharing service TravelCar, according to recent reports.
While the investment isn’t particularly notable from a financial perspective ($16 million isn’t much for the auto companies in question), it is interesting because it marks some of the first activity in the US by PSA Group in several decades.
Granted, for the time being, TravelCar is yet to debut in the US and currently operates only in France (since 2012), so the US angle on the investment is pretty marginal — it’s more just a matter of a French auto manufacturer investing in a French carsharing service.
When TravelCar debuts in the US in April, it will be based mostly out of airports in San Francisco and Los Angeles, so the entrance into the US market isn’t a big one anyway — more a testing of the market or a niche aim. But who knows where it will go?
Aside from the regional angle, the story is interesting since it is yet another auto manufacturer investing in carsharing. BMW has DriveNow/ReachNow. Daimler has car2go. GM has Maven. And several other auto manufacturers have programs or collaborations in the works. But PSA is taking a different approach on this industry.
Autoblog provides more: “TravelCar is different from other car-sharing services such as ZipCar in that it rents out other people’s cars. It’s that detail that makes MAIF an interesting partner, as it provides insurance services in case those cars get munched. TravelCar offers free parking at airports to those willing to let their vehicles be rented out while they’re traveling. In turn, TravelCar says its car-rental rates are about half that of typical rental-car places. TravelCar operates in 10 European countries and says it has about 300,000 users.”
It’s an interesting approach. I could see a lot of people wanting a 50% discount on a rental car, but I wonder how many people are willing to let their cars be used in that way.
“PSA says the investment is the first step in a 10-year plan in what it calls its ‘progressive entry’ into North America. No other details about that re-entry process have been revealed. The investment is a little less splashy than the recent news that has surfaced about PSA potentially acquiring General Motors’ European divisions Opel and Vauxhall.”
The bit about a “progressive entry” into the North American markets is interesting. I have to wonder what it means. Is PSA Group seriously considering selling cars in the US again?