NEW: Get Updates by Email

Plagued by Thefts, High Costs, Free2move Car-Sharing Service All But Shuts Down

by | May 6, 2024

Stellantis has all but completely abandoned its Free2move ride-sharing service due to a variety of problems including thefts, damage and high operating costs. Free2move continues operating only in Washington, D.C. and could close its U.S. operations entirely.

Brigette Courtehoux

Free2move CEO Brigette Courtehoux says the ride-sharing service has a lot of problems it needs to solve in the U.S.

While Uber may have finally delivered a profit, the car-sharing business has proven far more challenging than proponents once expected. Just ask the folks at Stellantis who have been struggling to make the Free2move service profitable.

The subsidiary has shut down all of its U.S. operations but for those in Washington, D.C. while it looks for ways to revise its business model.

The cutback was the result of “a lot of problems that now we are recovering (from),” Free2move CEO Brigitte Courtehoux told the Detroit News in an interview. But she stressed that the European-based service is looking for ways to restructure, rather than abandon, the U.S. market.

“Stop the problems, stop the bleeding”

Free2move Logo

Free2move currently operates in the U.S. and 15 European markets.

Free2move is a hybrid of ride-sharing and traditional car rentals. Unlike companies like Uber and Lyft, it owns all of its vehicles – nearly 500,000 worldwide – rather than relying on contract workers. It functions much like scooter rental companies Lime and Bird, placing its vehicles around a city. In turn, customer can use an app to instantly line-up a ride which may last anywhere from a few minutes to a few days. As with those scooter firms, Free2move vehicles can be dropped off pretty much anywhere there’s a legal parking spot.

While it has fared reasonably well in other markets – Free2move has faced far more challenges in the U.S. According to Courtehoux, Free2move has been plagued by high damage and theft rates, as well as traffic violations and even inventory control problems that have resulted in the service losing track of some of its vehicles.

Free2move has suffered “a lot of destruction and a lack of security” in some American markets, said Courtehoux. As a result, it has repeatedly trimmed back operations. Before it can expand again, the CEO said, it must “stop the problems, stop the bleeding.”

Slimming down

Free2move - app

Customers sign up and then use an app to locate and rent a Free2move vehicle.

Free2move was founded in 2016 and remains based in Paris. The company claims to have 6 million registered customers and now operates in 16 countries, primarily in Europe. But it had hoped to become a common sight in the U.S., as well. In January 23, it announced plans to set up 30 new operations across the country, including cities such as Denver, Portland, Columbus, Washington D.C., Los Angeles, Detroit, Dallas, Miami, Chicago and Tampa.

But, even by then, it was running into trouble. It shut down in Arlington, Virginia in September 2021 after failing to renew its operating permits. Free2move never got off the ground in several locations, such as Detroit. And it has since phased out everywhere but Washington, D.C.

The Stellantis subsidiary isn’t the first service of its kind to run into a wall, especially in the U.S. market. Several other automakers have abandoned similar business models, including Ford and General Motors. The Car2Go joint venture started by Daimler AG and BMW quit the U.S. Its operations were renamed Share Now and then sold to Free2move in 2022.

More Ride-Sharing News

Free2move Jeep

In the U.S., Free2move has rented mostly Jeep Renegades.

What’s next

Courtehoux said Free2move still wants to maintain a presence in the U.S. but plans to make a number of changes before it considers expanding again.

She told the Detroit News that, for one thing, it wants to “deploy our own tech, which will help.” It may adopt a different model in terms of where customers can pick up vehicles, setting up secure, fixed locations.

If it can come up with a strategy to “stop the bleeding.” Said Courtehoux, Free2move could began expanding U.S. operations again late this year.


Submit a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Our Mailing List is Live!
Get Updates by Email

Get on our list to receive the latest automotive news in your inbox!

Invalid email address
I would like to receive:
Give it a try. You can unsubscribe at any time.

Share This