FRANKFURT -- Volkswagen Group's Moia mobility division unveiled a six-seat, electric minibus that will roam the streets of Hamburg from next year as app-based hailing and ride-pooling services become the next must-have for automakers.
Moia plans to roll out its offering internationally with the goal of replacing 1 million cars in European and U.S. cities by 2025, Ole Harms, CEO of the division, said on Monday at the TechCrunch Disrupt conference in Berlin.
"We want to offer solutions for traffic problems such as congestion, air pollution, noise and lack of space," Harms said in a statement.
The Hamburg service will start out with 200 vehicles, and scale up to about 1,000 in the following years, he said. Moia will hire drivers, as well as sell the service to fleet operators and municipalities.
VW added Moia a year ago as its 13th brand alongside nameplates like Audi, Porsche and Skoda to expand beyond its main business of producing and selling vehicles and generate new sources of revenue.
The foray is part of a broader overhaul VW embarked on in the wake of its diesel-emissions crisis to become more agile and prepare for a fundamental industry shift toward battery-powered cars with new digital features.
VW acknowledged Moia’s push to reduce urban traffic is poised to partly cannibalize some of its own existing business of selling cars. "If we don’t do this, competitors will," VW’s strategy chief, Thomas Sedran, told reporters.
Customers can order the ride-pooling service through an app, similar to Uber's system. The app shows which cars are available and how much the ride will cost before a customer books a trip. A pooling algorithm groups passengers with similar destinations together in order to increase the capacity for each car and to avoid detours.
The vehicles have fast internet access for passengers and the seats feature reading lights as well as a USB ports to charge smartphones or tablet computers.
"Pooling as such isn’t a new idea, but the actual implementation is often not ideal. We want to combine the efficiency of pooling with a pleasant customer experience," Moia Chief Operating Officer Robert Henrich said.