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Leasing and fleet management companies 'first in line' for UK MaaS alternative

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Leasing and fleet management companies express interest and enthusiasm for new app-based multi-modal transport solution. Jonathan Manning reports. 

Early interest in the UK’s first Mobility as a Service (MaaS) operation has overwhelmingly come from the corporate sector, and, in particular, leasing and fleet management companies.

Maas Global launched its Whim app in the West Midlands in April, offering a multi-modal transport alternative to car ownership.

Within the first month, there were almost 3,000 downloads of the app, which combines access and seamless payment for public transport, taxis and car hire (with bike rental to follow). Whim offers three options:

  • No monthly fee; pay-as-you-go.
  • A £99 per month package that includes all public transport within the West Midlands, pay-per-ride taxi fares provided by Gett and car hire costing a maximum of £49 per day.
  • Whim Unlimited, which for £349 per month includes unlimited public transport in the region, unlimited tax rides of up to three miles and unlimited car hire.

Note, both monthly subscription services are currently ‘introductory prices’.

‘Unlimited’ appears to mean unlimited use of a rental car (a three-door economy model); individuals could potentially use it every day as a replacement for a private-owned or even company car.

However, there are likely to be BIK implications if a business decides to replace its company cars with the Whim service.

Whim appears to be banking on customers using public transport Monday to Friday, and car hire at the weekend, when rental providers have spare capacity.

It is possible the scheme, which is supported by Enterprise Rent-A-Car, could run at a loss during the pilot to test interest levels. In comparison, to hire an economy car as a private individual for a month would cost around £500.

In addition, there appears to be nothing to prevent someone from keeping hold of a hire car while they take a bus or taxi, so it could be open to exploitation.

The launch phase targeted retail customers, but it’s corporate clients who have expressed the greatest interest, said Chris Perry, who is leading the UK expansion team for Maas Global.

“What’s really interesting is that we’ve been approached by a number of players all saying they would like to work with us to help develop a B2B offer,” he said.

Perry sees fleet managers becoming mobility managers, and said the days of a big leasing company putting thousands of cars into an organisation, servicing them, changing the tyres and taking them away three years later are over.

“These companies are into providing a service and a solution for their customers, bringing together the company car offer with a mobility service,” he said.

Maas Global’s next step is to work with leasing and fleet management partners to develop a business offer, and to understand the potential tax implications.

“We would like to work with HMRC to see if the new offerings we are looking to develop can be treated favourably from a taxation perspective if it can be demonstrated we are moving people from company cars into more sustainable forms of mobility,” said Perry.

In Helsinki, where Whim launched in 2016, use of public transport increased from 48% to 74% of all journeys made by members; car journeys halved from 40% to 20%.

Other local authorities and cities are keeping a close eye on Whim, with Maas Global already outlining plans to expand into Edinburgh and/or Glasgow among other UK cities.

Sponsor's comment 

David Morris

By David Morris, business account manager, Goodyear Tyres

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