Tuesday, September 11, 2012

CommunAuto Expands to Paris

Montreal-based CommunAuto announced today that they were acquiring Mobizen, the Paris carsharing company, formerly owned by the group VeoliaTransdev.  It's the latest in a major overhaul of carsharing in the French capital.

Presently, Mobizen is the largest of "traditional" carsharing companies in Paris, with about 180 vehicles.  It is one of 3 carsharing operators in the city, including Avis On Location (formerly Okigo) and Keylib'.

CommunAuto says they could eventually grow as large as 4,000 vehicles in Paris and isn't worried about Autolib' — the one-way electric vehicle carsharing service that is expected to have 3,000 vehicles within a year.  "The two services are complementary and rebalancing the [carsharing] offer will allow Parisians to enjoy a better alternative to individual ownership of a car," said Benoît Robert, President and founder of Communauto.

"Our goal is to position the service to enable it to play a catalyst that will enhance the provision of Autolib ', transit and traditional rental cars," said Robert.  "To get there, we need to discover the appeal of this formula to the public. The growth potential is important. We believe our ability to provide medium-term thousands of vehicles, and for the benefit of Parisians who will make it easier than ever choose to forgo owning a car, without making a cross over the benefits of this mode of transport."

Currently there's a tiny number of "round-trip" vehicles in Paris — probably under 300 at present — surprising for a city of 12 million.  This is a far cry from the 1,200 vehicles CommunAuto has in Montreal and Quebec City area — population about 2.5 million between the 2 cities.

CommunAuto was founded in 1994 and has grown consistently since then.  It claims profitability every year but one, with between 5-10% returns.

The current Mobizen is the result of a merger of Caisse Commune, founded in 1999 and acquired by TransDev in 2008 and Mobizen, founded in 2007 by Veolia group.  TransDev and Veolia  group merged in 2011.

Communauto said it would revive growth of Mobizen through three strategies that have already proven themselves in Quebec: a more attractive pricing, the gradual introduction of hybrid and electric vehicles in its fleet and the development of offers combined with other industry players to sustainable transportation.

In an interview with French media Challenges, Robert explained why they chose Paris: "Paris is the largest francophone market within our reach, and I think the potential market is much larger than that of Quebec. France is one of the first countries to have experienced carsharing but the system remains much less developed than in Germany. I am convinced that anyway the market worldwide, is only emerging.

Will this acquisition be the start of a major expansion of Autopartage in France?  Bon voyage, CommunAuto.