Russian tech firm Yandex, best known for its eponymous search engine, is planning to expand its car-sharing service into Europe amid rivals’ struggles in the new market.
This is according to reporting from the Financial Times, which heard Anton Ryazanov, head of Yandex.Drive, which functions as an internal start up, explain that it would launch a service of up to a thousand electric vehicles in a European city later in 2020. Details of which city are as yet unclear, though Ryazanov indicated the possibility of Madrid, Copenhagen, or other cities in France and Italy.
The news comes as car-making brands have struggled to identify a route to long-term profitability in the car-sharing game. For instance, BMW and Diamler’s ShareNow, a car-sharing joint venture has announced its withdrawal from several key North American and European markets.
Yet the two-year-old Yandex appears to have grown off the back of the five-fold growth in the Russian car-sharing market, which has emerged as the world’s strongest.
Moscow currently enjoys the largest fleet of cars available to rent for short-term use of any city on earth, with 30,000 (not all Yandex-owned) compared to the 20,000 available in joint-second placed cities Tokyo, Beijing, and Shanghai.
Tech, the market’s players explain, has been central to its growth, mostly through the virtue of not having to remove humans from the equation to the same extent as competitors.
“This has all been automated from the beginning”, Ryazanov tells the FT. “We knew our fleet was going to grow intensively, so we couldn’t afford to put people in that value chain.”
In 2020, analysts expect Yandex.Drive’s Russian business to double revenues, with profitability expected in the next few years to join the already-profitable Yandex.Taxi.