BMW, VW, and the Rest — What Happens if they Decide to Roll Over

The news this morning is that BMW has purchased “Drive Now”, a car sharing company based primarily in Europe. This, added to its recent takeover of Parkmobile, and a number of other like companies, makes the BMW group “the world’s leading provider of digital parking solutions.”

According to its press release, the company hopes to have over 100 million customers by 2025.  Read about it on Parknews.biz.

For those of you who think this is just another aberration its time to wake up. BMW is not alone setting its sites on parking. Volkswagen has PaybyPhone under its wing. What is to say that other pay by cell companies, particularly those heavily funded by VC money, aren’t on the block. It would take the equivalent of a rounding error for companies like GM, Ford, Toyota, Chrysler-Fiat, Google, SAP, IBM, Amazon, Apple, Microsoft and the like to take the digital side of our industry by storm.

And why not? The existing digital parking companies are doing the heavy lifting now. They are spreading the word, taking the start up hits, and laying the groundwork for takeovers. Companies like those listed above have cash to burn. Why shouldn’t they enter our market.

As ‘connected cars’ continue to come on line. The desire of car companies to have parking solutions built in is obvious. Think about a seamless process of heading for your car, telling it where you want to go, having the fastest route on your dash, and ensuring that parking is convenient, reserved, and paid, all automatically. If BMW owns all the companies that provide those services, and builds them in, it sure makes their vehicles attractive to consumers.

Who knows which digital parking companies are in discussions right now. Which pay by cell, parking reservation, or parking location company will be next?

Is this a good thing or a bad thing? I can be persuaded either way. Good? Suddenly as an industry we have the funding to take us to the next technological level. Bad? When monster companies take over, individuals often are left in the dust. This is particularly true of the innovators, the founders and leaders. Its not hard to list the companies who have been ‘taken over’ and their leaders have left shortly after to “pursue other interests.” What IBM or BMW or Microsoft thinks are its best interest may not be in the best interest of our industry as a whole.

A Canadian friend once told me that living next to America was like sleeping next to an elephant. You just hope it doesn’t roll over.


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