Car-Sharing Boom Gets An Unlikely New Entrant

(Bloomberg) -- The car sharing boom that has engulfed major cities from New York to Tokyo has gained an unlikely new investor: Spain’s largest oil producer, Repsol SA.

The Madrid-based company has set up a joint venture with South Korea’s Kia Motors Corp. in the Spanish capital with a fleet of 500 hybrid vehicles. The firm, called Wible, is the fourth in the city to offer clients the possibility of picking up cars and leaving them in a different place, taking advantage of rules that exempt electric vehicles from driving bans in certain areas and paying for public parking.

While carmakers including Kia, Renault SA and Daimler AG are flocking to the car-sharing business, it’s a much rarer event for an oil producer to get involved. Yet for Repsol, it fits with a strategy to expand into both electricity production and mobility services, which included the 750-million-euro ($873 million) acquisition of power producer Viesgo earlier this year. The oil firm has also made small investments in scooter-maker Scutum and Ample, a developer of technology to charge cars.

Gasoline Stations

For Kia’s part, the automaker is able to take advantage of Repsol’s brand recognition and Spanish infrastructure including gasoline stations, according to Wible Chief Executive Officer Javier Martinez. The company plans to use Madrid as a base to expand into more Spanish cities and even other countries, he said.

“Wible is currently using several of Repsol’s gasoline stations as parking, charging and maintenance zones, and that’s a great asset,” said Martinez, a former Kia executive. The oil producer is also providing stations as parking lots outside Madrid, offering Wible users the possibility to leave the city, he said in an interview in the Spanish capital.

Repsol has Spain’s largest network of so-called rapid charging points for electric cars, with 30 located at its filling stations across the country. Wible’s cars have a 600-kilometer (373-mile) range, more than rivals.

Other Spanish car-sharing services include Daimler’s Car2go and Emov, owned by PSA Group and Eysa, a Spanish provider of mobility services. They are joined by Zity, a joint venture between Renault and Ferrovial SA, an infrastructure company.

©2018 Bloomberg L.P.