Free2Move goes its own way

30 July 2020

30 July 2020

PSA Group’s car-sharing service Free2Move is becoming its own fully-fledged company. The carmaker confirmed the move this week, saying the mobility brand will be an ‘autonomous, unified and agile entity.

Free2Move’s new-found independence comes as it integrates with TravelCar, a parking and rental solutions company acquired by PSA in 2019. It is hoped the company’s founding team will bring its know-how and digital technology to Free2Move. ‘As a global aggregator of parking and car-rental solutions for travellers, the integration of TravelCar services enhances the global mobility offer within a strong brand: Free2Move,’ PSA said.

Independence and integration

‘We create this new entity now in order to give autonomy and agility to Free2Move, while unifying teams from different backgrounds in a single structure,’ a PSA spokesperson told Autovista Group in an email. ‘Free2Move becomes a wholly-owned subsidiary of Groupe PSA,’ they confirmed.

The new organisation will have a head office located in Paris, with a team of 150 people worldwide. Free2Move has marked this latest development with the creation of its own website, as well as a mobile app, bringing together its portfolio of services. Free2Move customers now have access to driver reservations in 150 countries, parking in 65 countries and electricity recharging across Europe. A connected fleet management tool also complements this offer for companies.

Free2Move and TravelCar’s latest joint project is entitled ‘Free2Move Rent’.  The new short-term car-rental service is completely digital and will offer vehicles from the Peugeot, Citroën, DS and Opel brands on one single platform. Free2Move Rent is already available in France, Italy, Spain, Portugal, Belgium and Luxembourg, serving more than 300,000 customers. There are plans for the service to be rolled out in nine additional countries over the course of 2020.

COVID-19 complications

The effects of coronavirus (COVID-19) continue to weigh heavily on the automotive industry. New-car registrations in the EU fell by 22% year-on-year in June. While this was an improvement on the declines recorded in March (55%), April (76%), and May (52%), it may take a considerable amount of time for sales of both new- and used-cars to return to pre-pandemic levels.

This might not be bad news for everyone in the industry, however. As consumers tighten their belts, vehicle financing and leasing companies may seek solace in the change to car-buying behaviour. This could benefit the likes of Free2Move as people increasingly take advantage of short-term hiring solutions.

On the other hand, there may be some reluctance to make use of these services immediately. As consumers look to avoid public transport and contact with other people, shared-mobility services may share the same fate. Providers such as Free2Move will need to routinely disinfect their vehicles to reassure customers, or they could face an uphill battle.

Furthermore, as offices remain closed to dampen the chance of a second wave, fewer people need a use of a vehicle. Until a COVID-19 vaccine is created, there will continue to be less person-to-person interaction and far fewer journeys.

So, while Free2Move and TravelCar integrate amid this new-found autonomy, it raises the question as to whether PSA has taken stock of the COVID-19 complications and are now keeping the company at arm’s length as a subsidiary. This does, however, also facilitate collaboration with other industry players. Either way, the service has enough room to succeed or fail on its own terms.