France’s car-sharing system hits the end of the road

Public body voted to end Autolib’ service which ran up major losses that neither local authorities nor operator Bolloré were prepared to absorb.

This article is freely available. Check out our subscription offers. Subscribe

Autolib’, a popular yet unprofitable electric car-sharing system in Paris, on Thursday hit the end of the road after the public body that oversees it decided to cancel the private operator’s contract, reports FRANCE 24.

The vote comes after the Autolib’ service had run up major losses that neither the local authorities, nor the operator Bolloré, were prepared to absorb.

The SAVM voting session also determined that the Autolib’ contract would not be up for grabs for other potential operators, ultimately spelling the end of the service and leaving its estimated 150,000 users in the lurch.

Paris city authorities have previously estimated voiding the deal – which runs until 2023 – could cost "several tens of millions of euros" while Bolloré, owned by French magnate Vincent Bolloré, has put the tab at around €300 million.

The voting SAVM members, however, on Thursday agreed to “refuse to pay the financial compensation requested” by Bolloré.

The Bolloré group immediately responded by saying it would appeal the decision.

It was not immediately clear as of what date the service will no longer be available.

Launched in 2011, Autolib’ is popular among those who use its “free floating” cars. But it has failed to attract as many users as expected, undercut by competition from a growing range of transportation alternatives, including ride hailing apps such as Uber.

Maintenance has also been a major issue for Autolib’. Its fleet of silver cars has not aged well over the years, and has been known to be used by the homeless as shelter at night.

Autolib’ is not the only one in danger. The city’s bike-sharing service Velib’ – which Autolib’ was modeled on – is also at risk after a change in contractor led to major problems and a shortage of bikes.

Read more of this report from FRANCE 24.

Extend your reading on Mediapart Unlimited access to the Journal free contribution in the Club Subscribe