InMotion Ventures, the venture capital business powered by Jaguar Land Rover, has completed a seed investment in enterprise-focused ride-sharing platform SPLT.
SPLT is a car pool service that enables employees at large organisations to connect and share the drive to and from work, using their own vehicles. The platform’s ride-matching algorithm allows lifts to be dynamically arranged in seconds within a trusted community of commuters, saving time and money for both employees and employers as well as combatting traffic and parking issues.
SPLT (Splitting Fares, Inc), a 2015 Techstars Mobility graduate, was founded by Anya Babbitt and Yale Zhang. The Detroit-based startup currently operates in five major US cities, serving over 100,000 users, and recently established a partnership with Lyft to provide non-emergency medical transport. SPLT has just opened an office in Mexico City, and is preparing for European and Latin American expansion next month.
SPLT is a perfect fit for our portfolio, and a hugely exciting business that tackles a universal problem. Making the commute more efficient greatly benefits businesses and their employees. SPLT’s move into medical transport demonstrates the significant growth potential of the business, and its innovative model will inform and complement some of our other projects.
MANAGING DIRECTOR AT INMOTION VENTURES
Tata Motors and Volkswagen are looking at jointly developing vehicles for the Indian market and are already in advanced stages of talks. The talks may be firmed up at the Geneva Motor Show in the month of March, claims a report by Bloomberg. The report also claims that there is no certainty for the deal to go through and the talks are right now open-ended. While it is a regular practice in today’s age for carmakers to explore synergies in order to lower the rapidly increasing vehicles development costs, this deal is very interesting and possibly has a lot at stake.
An example of such an agreement that helped cut costs for two brands is the Renault and Nissan alliance. To put things in perspective, the Kwid was very well kitted but still, Renault managed to keep the pricing competitive. In fact, the Kwid was responsible for placing the French car maker on the mass-market map in the Indian passenger car market. Similarly, the deal proved immensely beneficial for Nissan in keeping its pricing low and hence Datsun redi-Go too went on to become a best-seller for Nissan.
Why not JLR but Volkswagen?
The first thing to question about this deal is the rationale behind this deal between a global giant and a domestic giant. The answer lies in the problem area for both that turns out to be their passenger car sales in India. While both companies are struggling in the local market for completely different reasons, there’s a lot more to this deal than it seems on the surface. Synergies in this deal point specifically to technology related issues and Tata Motors already owns Jaguar Land Rover (JLR), which is at par with the global competition in the luxury segment. So what is this technology that even JLR doesn’t have access to but Volkswagen does?
The answer lies in the rapidly shortening product lifecycles of vehicles today, primarily due to the influx of smart devices and growing importance of connectivity, which requires constant updates. With Tata Motors struggling with its passenger car division since years, the company now finally seems to get some firm footing to rise. However, a few successful models cannot propel the company’s journey into the horizon. Knowing that, Tata Motors recently announced to cut down its platforms from the present six to just two, one of which will be the Advanced Modular Platform (AMP). JLR operates in the premium space only and hence it’s expertise on modular platforms is restricted to that space only. Plus, the company has never tried making a low-cost car so it has no know-how on the subject at all, which is precisely what Tata Motors needs.
In simple words, modular platforms are flexible platforms, which allow vehicles of various body styles and sizes to made on the same platform, resulting in the critical parts being common. This not only saves a huge amount of money since there are lesser parts to develop, it also allows the company to develop vehicles faster, which is crucial for success today. However, the thing about modular platforms is that they’re complex to design and expensive too. Tata Motors, being one of the youngest companies in the global car scene doesn’t have the required technical know-how for the same.
This is where Volkswagen, one of the masters of making modular platforms comes into the picture. With platforms such as the MQB, Volkswagen is today selling cars with same underpinnings through different brands. So you could end up buying a Skoda, Volkswagen or even an Audi, based on the same platform and with the same engines too. It’s a win-win situation for the consumer and the company as the consumer gets more features and newer models quickly at a lesser price and the company is happy meeting consumer demands on time.
What’s in it for Volkswagen?
So what is in it for a global giant resting on a mountain of technology that filed more than 6,000 patents in 2015 alone? The answer once again lies in the problem area of Volkswagen, which is the absence of a small car. With its cheapest model starting at a price of more than Rs 5.5 lakh, Volkswagen loses out on the largest volume segment in the country. Moreover, there’s not much the company can do since they do not have a platform, which can spawn cars cheap enough to cater to the segment under rs 4 lakh or so. This is where Tata Motors comes in with its experience of making small cars, the jewel in its crown being the Nano, which the world was surprised with. That the Nano never really took off is a different story but from a technical perspective the car was a massive statement from an Indian company and made popular the term ‘frugal manufacturing’.
With Tata and Volkswagen joining hands, the duo may be able to develop a modular platform for low-cost cars and crossovers, that will go a long way in helping both companies improve their sales. Developing such a platform is critical for both companies as both have been struggling for long to achieve their desired goals. The deal is a bit more important for Volkswagen since the world’s largest carmaker commands only about 2 percent of market share in India, a figure the board rooms in Wolfsburg, Germany, won’t be too amused with. Moreover, it doesn’t have a platform for the kind of low-cost cars India demands. The company earlier considered the Up platform for India but later shelved the plan due to it turning out to be too expensive. Developing an entirely new platform will entail massive investments, increasing the risk for a company already grappling with the diesel emission scandal and hefty penalties.
While this tie-up is being discussed, it’s imperative for both companies to go ahead with the larger plan discussed in this story. In present circumstances, though, both companies seem fit to fulfil each other’s requirements. With the market getting more competitive by the day, Tata and Volkswagen need to act quickly in order to make it big in the future. Even if this deal doesn’t go through, both companies will need to ensure they find a similar partner soon enough because the competition is quickly coming to terms with a modular platform-based product roadmap and as history suggests, catching up isn’t always an easy task in the Indian automotive market.
It’s with a very heavy heart that we pass on the news that one of Jaguar’s greatest racers and devotees, Bill Pitt, died on February 23 at the grand age of 90 years.
Bill was co-winner of the first 24 Hours race held in Australia (1954) driving one of the first XK120 FHCs built, defeating Peter Whitehead and Tony Gaze in an ex-works C-Type.
He co-purchased new D-Type XKD526, raced it with great success, and even flipped it onto its back at Albert Park in its second outing. He was incredibly fortunate to survive that – and without any injury.
In 1957 he co-drive the Queensland Jaguar distributor’s MkVIII auto saloon in the Mobilgas Around Australia Trial – coming home the first non-VW car and in 7th placing outright. They also claimed a host of other awards for what he said was his finest competition event.
In 1959 he co-owned and drove one of the potent and rare works prepared 3.4 Litre (Mk1) cars to finish second in the first Australian Touring Car Championship in 1960 (behind another works ‘Mk1’).
In 1961 he captured the second Australian Touring Car Championship in the ‘Mk1’ beating Bob Jane and a host of other Jaguar entrants.
Bill was the Service Manager for Westco Motors, the Queensland and Northern Territory Jaguar distributors, and carried out a host of other vital roles in the business before going into his own non-motoring enterprise.
Last year we were delighted to take Bill, the Patron of the Jaguar Drivers Club of Queensland, to meet David Bowden who showed him around his incredible collection of historic racing cars.
That includes the first works-built ‘Mk1’ in Australia, the ex-David McKay ‘Grey Pussy’ – when Bill sat in a ‘Mk1’ racing Jaguar for the final time.
He lost his delightful wife Cherry some years ago, but was strongly supported by his daughter and two sons to whom we pass on our deepest sympathies on their loss of a talented but too modest man who loved Jaguars to his core.
RIP, Bill Pitt. It was an honour to know you.
Jaguar was surprised to be in contention for its first Formula E points in last weekend’s Buenos Aires ePrix.
Mitch Evans’s seventh-place start was the best qualifying performance by the British manufacturer in its debut Formula E season, and he ran well inside the top 10 in the opening stint.
Poor efficiency in the second stint dropped him out of the points-paying positions and a five-second time penalty for speeding under an early full-course yellow, caused by his team-mate Adam Carroll, meant Evans was eventually classified 13th.
It still marked a big improvement in performance from Jaguar, which was off the pace in Hong Kong and Marrakech and remains the only team yet to score a point in Formula E.
“We thought we had a great chance [of points] after the car swap,” Jaguar team director James Barclay told Autosport.
“What did slightly surprise us is this is our hardest challenge to date, this was the first track everyone’s been to.
“So if anything, doing it here, making that step here, was really impressive to see.
“There’s a little bit of a positive surprise there, but it’s really good to see what we thought we were going to see materialise – and on a track everyone’s been to twice before.”
Prior to Evans’s qualifying effort, in which he set a time 0.75 seconds slower than Jean-Eric Vergne’s benchmark, Jaguar’s best qualifying result was 14th and it had been 1.3s off the pace at previous events.
Evans said missing out on points should not detract from the team “making great strides” after “an absolute mess” in the first two races.
“I was hanging with the guys in front pretty comfortably and was pretty happy, and had a great pitstop,” he added.
“The whole second stint was really tough, I couldn’t match the energy targets as I could in the first stint and gradually got eaten up.”
Though the New Zealander conceded that Jaguar still has “a long way to go on ultimate pace”, he praised the improvements made on the car’s set-up.
“It was the best I’ve felt in a Formula E car,” he said of his qualifying lap. “I felt great as soon as I left the pits.
“You need that confidence in this car, especially one lap at 200kW and on the brakes, or you’ll either be in the wall or just slow.”
Carroll had a tougher event, struggling with the set-up throughout and then sparking the early caution when his car failed to launch, though he got going just in time to avoid falling a lap down.
Barclay was not sure if Carroll’s problem was a driver or system error, but admitted the team needed to deal with full-course yellows better in the future as both drivers were penalised for speeding.