Audi buys luxury car rental startup Silvercar

Audi has offered to buy U.S. premium car rental service Silvercar as it seeks to expand its presence in mobility services and apply the startup’s software expertise to other business platforms. car sharing.

Silvercar, founded in 2012, is an airport car rental service offering exclusively silver Audi A4 models. The Austin, Texas-based company now operates in 15 US cities.

The two companies declined to give details on the size of the transaction, but said the deal is expected to close in the first half of this year.

Audi has partnered with Silvercar since its inception and last year it bought a minority stake for $28 million in a Series C funding round. Other investors have included Facebook co-founder Eduardo Saverin .

The purchase follows a long series of investments by automakers in recent years, including GM buying a stake in Lyft, as manufacturers look to providing services in a market shaken by the prospect of self-driving cars. and a proliferation of ride-sharing apps. . Barclays analysts have predicted that vehicle ownership could decline by 50% before 2040.

Luke Schneider, managing director of Silvercar, said the automotive market is “on the verge of experiencing the most profound changes in the 120-year history of modern personal transport”.

Moritz Drechsel, a spokesman for Audi, said the company has no interest in the car rental business per se, but Silvercar has developed impressive technology to simplify the car-sharing customer experience. . One program in particular caught Audi’s attention: Dealerware, a digital dealer fleet management service.

Audi, a unit of Volkswagen, has already experimented with five different car-sharing concepts. These include on-demand concierge services (Audi on demand), a small circle ownership model (Audi Unite), a leasing model with access to multiple vehicles (Audi Select), a rental option car rental for businesses (Audi shared fleet), and a shared rental program for certain residences (Audi at home).

Unlike luxury rival BMW, which hopes to launch an “Airbnb for cars” service allowing car owners to rent their own vehicles, all of Audi’s mobility services are based on the fact that Audi owns the vehicles they own. ‘she rent.

“Audi and Silvercar share the same vision,” Audi Board Member Dietmar Voggenreiter said in a press release. “We want to open up a flexible new path to mobility for our customers while delivering superior quality in every respect.”

Pamela W. Robbins