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June 27, 2019 3:15 PM, EDT

VW Piles Into Crowded Car-Sharing Market With All-Electric Fleet

vw Alex Kraus/Bloomberg News

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Volkswagen AG will dive into the increasingly crowded car-sharing market with its WeShare offering, which will seek to distinguish itself from rivals with an electric-only fleet.

The short-term rental service started in Berlin on June 27 with 1,500 battery-powered Golf hatchbacks, and it will add 500 e-Up! mini-cars as well as some of the first ID.3 electrics next year. WeShare will expand to Prague and Hamburg in 2020, Volkswagen said in a statement.

Car-sharing offerings have multiplied in Berlin in recent months. In the German capital, Sixt SE, Miles, Oply and Ubeeqo compete with BMW AG and Daimler AG’s ShareNow, which still operates under the DriveNow and Car2go brands months after their merger. There’s a range of scooter- and bike-sharing options as well as riding sharing.

The offering could help Volkswagen bolster its push into electric vehicles by making them more visible with consumers in what effectively is a paid test drive. VW plans to produce some 70 battery-powered models across its 12 auto brands by 2028 and assemble 22 million electric cars over the next decade. To make the strategy work, it needs to show skeptical consumers that the vehicles are viable for everyday use.

WeShare will rent its cars for an introductory rate of 19 cents per minute, compared with about 30 cents for DriveNow.

“With such a consistent, broad offering, we stand out from the competition,” Christian Senger, VW board member for digital services, said in the statement.