Mitsubishi invests in an app that wants to replace cars
Mitsubishi Corp. joined Toyota Financial Services as an investor in a Finnish firm that seeks to offer a viable alternative to car ownership.
The Tokyo-based company has bought shares in MaaS Global Oy, the Helsinki-based company behind the Whim mobile application, in its latest funding round that is set to be closed within a few weeks, according to Chief Executive Officer Sampo Hietanen. Before this round, Whim had collected about 24 million euros ($26 million) from investors, it said in April.
MaaS Global has been looking for “strategic” investors who bring in “not just money but something extra,” Hietanen said by phone. He is banking on learning from Mitsubishi how to incorporate local know-how with global reach and how to negotiate with various parties within the transport ecosystem that can encompass multiple transport services from buses, city bikes, ride sharing and taxis to rental cars.
MaaS Global pioneered its mobility-as-a-service business in the Finnish capital, where it launched in 2017. In Helsinki, users can choose a monthly subscription that includes unlimited public transport, 10-euro taxis over short distances, the use of city bikes and cheaper car rentals. A subscription with unlimited rental cars, short-distance taxis and public transport costs 499 euros a month.
Whim also operates in Birmingham, U.K., and Antwerp, Belgium.
Next in line are Vienna, Singapore and cities in Japan, Hietanen said. Before unveiling the service to masses, Whim will pilot with smaller user numbers in each market to “focus on the user experience to really get it right,” he said. MaaS Global expects to open in Miami, Vancouver and Chicago in 2020.
In Helsinki, the service is evolving to a new pricing model next quarter. After first introducing a pay-as-you-go model and then moving into packaging mobility in monthly subscriptions, Whim will launch packages where the price is dependent on service levels it says better compare with private car ownership.
“This is what a car tends to represent to people, it’s this promise of freedom to go anytime, anywhere on a whim,” Hietanen said. “We really need to concentrate on delivering that.”