Daimler — the German car giant that owns Mercedes-Benz among other brands — has made one more acquisition to further its reach in ridesharing and what it sees as the next generation of how cars are owned and used. It has acquired Flinc, a startup also out of Germany that has built a platform and app for peer-to-peer-style carpooling.
People who are driving in one direction find people who are looking to go in the same direction and offer them rides, with the subsequent deal either negotiated in cash or simple done for free.
Flinc — which exists as a standalone app and is also integrated into other services, such as larger enterprise’s company apps for work colleagues to carpool together — will continue to operate independently, Daimler said, led by the startup’s founders, Dr. Klaus Dibbern, Michael Hübl and Benjamin Kirschner.
Founded in 2010, flinc had raised an undisclosed amount of money from a group of investors that include Deutsche Bahn (the German train and transport company); General Motors Ventures and Ecomobility Ventures. GM’s investment was partly strategic: European subsidiary Opel integrated Flinc into its own employee backend to enable ridesharing amongst its own employees.
Indeed, I wonder if the fact that Flinc doesn’t seem to have made profit the primary idea behind the rides that it enables (its URL is even “flinc.org”) is one of the reasons why it has happily existed while fire and brimstone has rained down upon Uber for allegedly flouting commercial driving regulations in multiple markets.
A large part of Flinc’s technology appears to involve smart navigation: it works out your route from A to B, and then the route for individuals looking for rides, and then it matches them up, serving options between potential pairs only one at a time to avoid double-booking and confusion. Some 500,000 people have used the service to date.
Daimler Mobility Services, the division that has made the acquisition, says that the deal is part of Daimler’s strategy to “transition from being an automobile manufacturer to a mobility services provider.”
It’s one more sign of how automakers are preparing for a potential future where cars are more expensive (because they carry more tech in them, such as self-driving capabilities), and are therefore purchased less often, leading automotive manufacturers to search for other kinds of business models around their vehicles.
“Transport options are just as varied as the mobility demands of our customers. Whether flexible carsharing, ride-hailing or door-to-door ridesharing, with our mobility services, we are able to provide the ideal solution,” said Jörg Lamparter, head of Mobility Services at Daimler, in a statement. “With Flinc, we are taking on an extremely well-coordinated team that brings valuable experience in the field of short-distance ridesharing.”
Daimler has not been a stranger to the bigger changes we are seeing in the transportation industry. Recent investments from the company have included putting $60 million into quick-charging battery startup Storedot, $250 million into Via, a shuttle-based ridesharing company, and investments into Careem, Blacklane, FlixBus and Turo. Other acquisitions include car2go and mytaxi (which includes its acquisition also of Uber competitor Hailo).
Daimler is not alone in the race for more technology and startups that are building it. General Motors, Ford, Volkswagen and Volvo have all also bet big on autonomous cars and transportation startups that are helping consumers live without owning their own vehicles.