INTERVIEW WITH GREGORY DUCONGE, CEO OF VULOG
As TU-Automotive Detroit (2019) quickly approaches, we took some time to sit down with Gregory Duconge, CEO of Vulog, to capture his insights on the state of shared mobility globally. Vulog provides a white label shared mobility platform to launch new carsharing and scootersharing services in a matter of months. Their client book spreads globally to 5 continents, and includes transportation titans such as Kia Motors, Free2Move (Groupe PSA), Sumitomo and Evo (BCAA). They have also recently announced a partnership with Renault to create a sharing-ready vehicle. We have the pleasure of welcoming Mr. Duconge to our 'Mobility by Design' panel at TU-Automotive Detroit at 12:10pm on June 6th - we encourage you to drop in as Greg and his panelist colleagues explore the winning business models of new mobility.
This interview has been edited for clarity and brevity.
Q: Personal transportation has historically been dominated by OEMs and the personally-owned vehicle? Now that we're seeing a shift to Mobility as a Service, are OEMs still in the driver's seat?
"Every OEM is exploring shared mobility in one way or another - some have been slow to start and are simply running small-scale pilots, while others have been quite progressive in their approach to alternative consumption models. Notably, Daimler and BMW’s newly minted ShareNow service, PSA’s global mobility brand, Free2Move, and an interesting one out of Europe VW’s incoming WeShare electric carshare service – these are just a few of the major investments in emerging models of vehicle consumption.
Saying that every OEM is guaranteed to be a leader in the future of transportation is a bit presumptuous, especially if they are not actively innovating on a 100-year-old business model. Increasingly, we're seeing new mobility projects being led by dealer networks, rental operators, insurance providers, energy companies, and even pure start-ups with progressive financial backers. In order to maintain their market leading positions, OEMs must recognize that the small mobility services might be important competitors tomorrow (if they aren’t already!). These nimble services are acquiring users at a rapid pace, and they’re rolling out innovative business models fast to address evolving consumer demands."
Q: You mention some industries that are traditionally quite removed from mobility operations - insurance providers, for example. How do you see them taking part in this shift to shared mobility?
"If you take a step back and consider the different stakeholders in shared mobility - telecommunication networks for IOT connectivity, fuel and EV charging infrastructure, insurance providers, etc. - each one controls a key component that drives the success of a service. Further, each one brings to the table a key differentiator that will enable them to excel in operating their own shared mobility service. Telco operators have extensive user bases and a strong relationship via monthly user touchpoints. Insurance providers have tremendous risk profiling capabilities and a unique understanding of their customers' life stages. The energy sector has access to valuable urban real estate via gas stations and EV charging points. Each one of these assets can bring substantial value to a shared mobility service, and based on the projects that our team at Vulog has launched in the last year, we can confirm that these industries are taking action to own a bigger piece of the pie."
Q: What is the current state of the industry? Are these still niche conversations or would you say shared mobility is in the limelight?
"Definitely in the limelight, at least in the sense of awareness. Most OEMs and the peripheral automotive industry - dealers/distributors, Tier 1, rental operators - have come around to the 'what,' 'why,' and 'when' of shared mobility. They understand the basics of alternative vehicle consumption models, they see consumer demands are evolving over time, and they recognize this paradigm shift is already in motion.
What many companies in this industry haven't specifically addressed is the 'how' and 'who' - how are we going to evolve to an on-demand business model, and who is going to enable it. That's where we've positioned Vulog - to answer those tough questions. We provide the industry’s leading platform to power carsharing services, as well as the sharing of other vehicles. Mobility operators can therefore address multiple markets, in order to validate their ideas at some level of scale, and then subsequently increase their service offering and size thereafter.
We’ve also set up an internal consulting team to help our clients design the perfect business model, and built an ecosystem of partners - insurance providers, telco services, operational experts - to bring all the necessary operational partners under one umbrella."
Q: So what about the 'where' of shared mobility? Is there a specific region with strong growth potential? Where does North America fit into your global outlook?
"For those carshare and scootershare services that are already in market, we're seeing explosive year over year member growth across all regions. Some of our clients are expanding to new cities, and interestingly they are not bound by distance - they've been able to expand to new countries and new continents as they build out global mobility brands. Some are expanding their footprint via franchisees, while others are keeping internal control and creating central operating hubs to manage their remote operations.
In terms of new services coming to market, Europe, with its dense cities and strong transit networks, has always been a hotbed for shared mobility and will continue that trend as congestion pricing and the EU's legislation on CO2 emissions comes into effect in 2020. Expect lots of electric vehicle sharing to appear in Europe in the next 3 years.
Similarly, here in North America, 2018 was a busy year for micromobility and we’re all familiar with the incredible growth curves of Lime, Bird and their competitors. We expect these mobility services to continue their scaling into passenger vehicles as well.
On the carsharing front, you've got your industry leaders - Zipcar with roundtrip carsharing and ShareNow (Car2Go) with free-floating carsharing. However there's been several new entrants in this space, such as Free2Move in Washington, DC, that are scaling up their operations rapidly. Vulog alone will be powering at least 3 more services in North America by the end of the year.
Finally, the APAC region, which has historically seen considerable focus on micromobility options, is making a notable push into EV-based carshare services. As local governments look to reduce their crippling traffic congestion and air pollution, EV carsharing, notably services with ultra-compact one or two-seater vehicles, is being accepted as a viable solution."