Paris puts an end to electric car sharing system Autolib
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Paris has terminated its contract with the Bolloré Group, forecasting an upcoming legal battle. Launched in 2011, Autolib ran up major losses that neither local authorities, nor Bolloré are prepared to absorb.
After the Vélib fiasco, this is another setback for Paris socialist Mayor Anne Hidalgo.
Launched in 2011 as a "world premier" and a symbol of modernity, Autolib 'was to revolutionize mobility in Paris.
Without any public funding, the service was even expected at the time to yield a profit of at least 56 million euros a year.
If Autolib was immediately popular among customers, (more than 150,000 subscribers to date), profitability was never achieved.
The service was confronted with massive competition coming from several directions: uber drivers, scooters and self-service bikes, car-sharing or rental services Drivy, Ubeeqo, Zipcar, Citiz, Communauto.
"People living in urban centres have become multi-modal: they are increasingly switching from one form of transportation to another," said Nicolas Louvet of 6t, a consulting firm specialising in transport.
Paris city authorities estimate the loss incurred from cancelling the deal at "several tens of millions of euros". Bolloré Group, owned by French magnate Vincent Bolloré, expects it to be up to 300 million.
The company's failure is the latest in a series of transportation headaches for Hidalgo, already taking heat over the bungled change of operator for the city's flagship bike-sharing system Velib, which resulted in a huge shortage of bikes.
Her decision to close off major roads along the Seine river to traffic has also infuriated many drivers, who say she has simply made traffic jams worse.
"There is a major problem with mobility options in Paris," the centre-right national government spokesman Benjamin Griveaux, a candidate for mayor in 2020 elections, told Radio Classique.