Daimler Buys Chauffeur Prive to Intrude on Uber's Turf in France

(Bloomberg) -- Daimler AG bought a majority stake in French private-hire limousine operator Chauffeur Prive, accelerating the luxury-car maker’s expansion into ride-hailing turf occupied by firms like Uber Technologies Inc.

The German maker of Mercedes and Smart automobiles plans to acquire full control of Chauffeur Prive in 2019 once it gets regulatory clearances, Stuttgart-based Daimler said Thursday in a statement. The parties wouldn’t disclose financial terms.

The purchase adds 1.5 million customers to the 17 million already served by Daimler’s mobility businesses, which include Car2Go car-sharing brand and Mytaxi ride-hailing unit. Chauffeur Prive, initially backed by the XAnge private-equity unit of France’s national mail carrier La Poste, targets business customers with extra services such as advance bookings and ride-price calculations. It provides cars in Paris, Lyon and the Riviera with more than 30,000 drivers.

“Daimler, with its financial strength, is ideally poised to continue its transformation from a pure car manufacturer to a comprehensive mobility services company as we pave the way to autonomous driving,” Chief Financial Officer Bodo Uebber said in the statement.

The German company, mass-market leader Volkswagen AG and luxury-car competitor BMW AG are among European automakers developing digitally based divisions in response to technology shifts that are changing how consumers use vehicles. While a top European Union court ruling against Uber this week complicates the new industry’s prospects, car manufacturers must still contend with the growth of wireless communications, battery power and other systems prompting massive overhauls of their model plans.

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