Rivals in the pink

CAR companies have long talked a good game when it comes to harnessing technology that threatens to undermine the business of making and selling vehicles. In the 1990s, as the dotcom boom was in full swing, Jac Nasser, then boss of Ford, said that the new business models the internet would enable meant that his firm would outsource the dull task of assembling cars and reinvent itself as a mobility company, selling transport as a service. Mr Nasser was too early with this insight. Only now are most big carmakers teaming up with tech firms that offer transport services, on the road to becoming mobility providers. But they in turn may have left it too late.

In the scramble to reinvent themselves, conventional carmakers have turned their attention of late to ride-hailing apps. These services allow people to use smartphone apps to summon a car and driver to ferry them to their next destination. On May 24th both Toyota and Volkswagen announced tie-ups with taxi-hailing apps. The Japanese firm has made a small, undisclosed investment in Uber, the world’s biggest ride-hailing firm, with operations in over 70…Continue reading