Interview with Christian Lambert, Managing Director of DriveNow Belgium.
Powerful innovative firms such as Amazon, UBER or Deliveroo are altering not just the way we buy things, but could also sweep away an entire economic model. Do you agree? Do you include DriveNow in this group?
Free-floating car-sharing is becoming rapidly an important pillar in urban mobility today. As on the one side, the cost of private ownership of cars including insurance, fuel, taxes and parking costs – not to mention the parking fuss/frustrations – is rapidly growing. And on the other side, the frustration of using only a car in urban environment, being not mobile but stuck in traffic, is becoming reality. These two vectors are pushing urban citizens towards a multi-mobility mode in which they re-discover freedom of choice, using a car only when strictly necessary.
We have today a high penetration of users within the employees of the very different European institutions which, due to their high salaries, can perfectly afford themselves private cars but prefer the much more sensible choice of different mobility offers according to their need at a very specific moment. Many of the families gave away their second car, for the time being, still keeping their first car. And car-sharing together with ride-hailing (Uber model) will become exactly the same as soon as autonomous cars will become a daily reality, and will then definitely and very profoundly, change the business model of the car manufacturers. This will be an enormous game-changer!
You joined two years ago the DriveNow team in Belgium. How are things going in this market?
We keep on growing in a very steady way and, so far, on a rhythm that we should double our revenues by the end of this year compared to 2017. On registering new customers, which in fact means changing behaviour of the Brussels citizen, we keep on growing our customer base. We’ll probably register more new customers in 2018 compared to 2017.
Did you adapt your business model?
The business model is the same as in every other European city but we have adapted our growth figure compared to the initial plan. The growth in Brussels isn’t as we planned due to several reasons. But we hope that the announced new legacy on the Mobility budget will leverage/enhance a bigger shift in the mobility attitude of the Brussels citizen towards a multi-mobility use, including car-sharing.
Your company is present in nine European countries. Is it difficult to operate in Belgium?
No. At least here in Brussels, the modalities to operate are well defined and the public is not much different as in other cities. To be precise, we don’t have a higher accident rate, vandalism or whatsoever. Our biggest challenge is the mode shift of a Belgian citizen towards other mobility modes abandoning the privately used car.
Why did you choose Brussels?
First of all, for the simple reason that Brussels – at least, the Brussels-Capital Region – is a city of 1.2 million inhabitants with a decent airport which perfectly fits our actual business model of free-floating car-sharing. Secondly, the local authority is convinced together with us that the mobility shift of the Brussels citizen will happen faster including very different modes of car-sharing – station-based, free-floating, peer-to-peer. Last but not least, the fact that Brussels is the capital of Europe certainly helped the decision to start in Brussels.
Did DriveNow grow in the last two years? Where do you stand regarding your competitors?
As the figures aren’t given public, it’s difficult to answer. I have a strong conviction that both free-floating players are close to each other. And I’m still assuming we are heading the two parties. But also, the conventional station-based players like Cambio benefitted in 2017 from the growing importance of car-sharing.
Brussels has high levels of pollution. Since January 2018, multiple vehicles are prohibited to drive within the 19 communes. How is this new regulation affecting you?
No, not at all. All DriveNow cars are complying with the latest Euro 6 emission norms. Most petrol cars, some electric, no diesel.
Do you intend to be present in other Belgian cities?
You have probably heard of the announced cooperation between the BMW Group and Daimler concerning all different kinds of mobility services. As soon as this will be confirmed by the relevant anti-trust authorities in Europe, further decisions on these topics, like expansion of the businesses, will be taken.
Can you unveil any surprise for 2019?
We have expanded a little bit the DriveNow Zone towards Molenbeek at Easter this year, and I would love to reveal other beautiful plans. But it’s probably a little bit too early. Hopefully, some good plans can be released after the summer break.