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Uber’s Investment in Lime Is the Long Gameplay Away From Car Ownership

If you have seen the tech or business news lately, you have likely seen that scooter and bike rental company Lime has gotten a significant investment to the tune of $250 million to continue to bring its tech-enabled mobility services around the globe. Two of the main investors are also quite powerful strategic partners: Google Ventures and Uber.

A blog post put out by Lime today to announce the investment had some insights into what Uber looks to gain from investing in Lime.

“Uber will work with us as a strategic partner in the electric scooter space to offer people a greater variety of transportation modes at their fingertips and make it increasingly easy to live without a car.

As electric scooters grow in popularity and become a more beloved way to travel short distances, the partnership adds to Uber’s vision of becoming a transportation platform for people around the globe. We are working to co-brand our scooters and make Lime available in the Uber app, with more news to follow.”

The thing that stuck out to me was “make it increasingly easy to live without a car.” Ridesharing companies like Uber stand to gain from a switch from car ownership to shared assets. They will do what it takes to make life without cars possible. Both Uber and Lyft have reportedly been courting charter bus company Skedaddle.

So, if we can easily hail a ride, ride around town on an electric scooter and charter a bus to a music festival, do we still need cars? The answer seems to be no. But instead of cutting out personal vehicles altogether, many are using their car budget for an SUV. Vehicle sales are up for nearly every manufacturer fueled almost exclusively by sales of SUVs. Some analysts do see signs of slowing though:

“A.P. report that the increase through the first half of 2018 is due to low-profit sales to fleet customers (rental companies) and retail sales to people “propped up by rising incentives such as rebates and subsidized leases.”

If car sales drop and Uber is able to develop a self-driving technology, they might be in a very powerful position to buy bulk automobiles for there fleet, essentially swapping automakers’ margins for their own. This is more likely to happen if people move to cities like many predict and a number of mobility options exist that can take the place of owning a car outright. Once this happens, expect headlines talking about “mobility-as-a-service” and for Uber to be one of the biggest companies in the world by being an alternative to purchasing, insuring and maintaining an automobile.

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