Carsharing is getting big – and Vulog is ready
Over the next 12 months, carsharing will experience extraordinary growth. “We’re past the experimental phase. Large players are getting involved,” says Grégory Ducongé, CEO of Vulog – a company that is seeing its own fortunes rise with the tide.
Vulog is to carsharing what Intel is to computing: its name may not be on the product, but it is essential for its success. And like microchip manufacturer Intel, Vulog is the global leader in its market: providing the digital infrastructure on which countless carsharing services run.
Following its capital injection last year, an expansion into North America and a recent high-profile addition to its Board of Directors, the Nice-based company is poised to maximise its benefit from the coming boom in carsharing.
“We’re noticing a lot of leads coming from the U.S. and strong interest from the car manufacturers. Neither was the case 12 months ago,” says Mr Ducongé (pictured).
Freedom to move
In the U.S. perhaps more than anywhere else, the freedom to move is equated with the personal car. That preference was long considered so ingrained in the country’s DNA that it would remain immune to the growing popularity of carsharing in Europe and elsewhere. However, the evidence to the contrary is mounting.
- In the 3 months since its launch in Chicago, Car2Go has acquired more than 10,000 customers.
- Gig Car Share, launched in April 2017, has doubled its fleet to 500 vehicles in the San Francisco Bay Area and will soon be launching 260 more cars in Sacramento.
- And PSA has just launched its free-floating carsharing service Free2Move in Washington DC – the first full-scale U.S. launch for the product, which operates on a Vulog platform.
“We’re expecting many more launches over the coming 12 months,” says Mr Ducongé.
Well-established in Europe and growing in the U.S. and Canada, as well as across Asia and in Australia, Vulog has seen the annual growth of its business accelerate to nearly 100%. Its platforms currently power around 15 million trips around the world. Next year, that figure is projected to be around 25 million.
That’s ambitious, but not unrealistic, Mr Ducongé explains: “We’re past the experimental phase. The time for small pilot projects is over. Large, solid players are getting involved – including almost all carmakers, but also insurance companies, car distributors and dealerships, even oil and gas companies. Their projects don’t deal in a few dozen cars but in hundreds or thousands of vehicles.”
Vulog has grown accordingly. Just this year, its staff size expanded from 60 to 100 people. Apart from its offices in Europe, the company now also has locations in North America (Toronto and San Francisco) as well as China.
“We have a strong focus on data, and employ a lot of technicians, to continuously update and improve our products and expand into multiservices and multimodal offerings. For example, we’ve deployed our platform for one of our customers, D’Ieteren in Belgium, that enables their users to seamlessly share not only cars but also scooters.”
Vulog is working on getting its customers ready for the introduction of autonomous vehicles into their carsharing fleets. Cities are also a strong focus for the company, as they are the main vector for introducing – and growing – carsharing fleets.
“We have an excellent working relationship with a number of cities in Scandinavia, which are very progressive when it comes to introducing new mobility paradigms. But we’re seeing a positive change in Paris as well. We think it will be one of the leading cities when it comes to the introduction of new mobility modes.”
Even as carsharing grows globally and the company strengthens its position as the essential provider of its information architecture, Vulog is unlikely to become a household name. “But that’s okay. We’re not in it to be famous,” laughs Mr Ducongé. “Our aim is to provide excellent products and services to those who offer carsharing. To support our customers, wherever they go. And to keep growing, while maintaining our high quality of work.”
Mobility companies looking for growth sooner or later end up trying to crack the Chinese market. How about Vulog? “Yes, China has enormous potential. But we’re very humble about our ambitions there because it’s also a very difficult market to get into. We are launching a first project in Wuhan and working hard to deploy a second one soon.”
Not that Vulog isn’t ambitious. The appointment in late October of Patrick Pélata to the company’s Board of Directors speaks of its drive to become a crucial player in the new mobility ecosystem.
Mr Pélata is not just the former COO of Renault and Chief Automotive Officer of Salesforce, he also advises French president Macron on new mobility solutions and on electric and autonomous vehicles. “In our growing involvement with car manufacturers, Mr Pélata’s insights will be very helpful in finding out what they need, and offering it to them,” Mr Ducongé concludes.