July 17, 2024

Opening doors

As car rental giant Sixt becomes a key investor in Blacklane, we speak to the chauffeur specialist’s CEO and Co-Founder, Dr. Jens Wohltorf

What does the Sixt investment mean for Blacklane and its corporate customers?

The second closing of our series F funding, which was led by Sixt – and in the first round by Mercedes Benz Mobility and Gargash Group – will allow us to finance new products, new technology, expand our local markets and our City to City products. More importantly, there are strategic benefits. Through its app and its other channels, Sixt will be able to offer our chauffeur services as an alternative to rental cars and other kinds of transport, giving us new sales and distribution channels, both B2B and B2C. Sixt also has a strong presence in airports around the world and there are opportunities to join forces here.

Where is the initial focus?

North America is the largest and fastest growing market for both companies and this is where we’ll start integrating our inventory and marketing it together. Once we have seamlessly and smoothly integrated, we will look to grow in this market. The market size for premium chauffeur services here is huge – 10s of billions of dollars – and although I don’t know of any other global chauffeur service of our size, we are still relatively small in this highly-fragmented market, so there is lots of room for growth. We have also identified the Middle East as a key growth market and we are already using the UAE as a test bed for new innovations. We have fully electrified our rides in Dubai and earlier this year we opened our first Chauffeur Academy here to train drivers. In Dubai we offer four options – airport transfers, City to City routes (mainly Dubai-Abu Dhabi), hour leasing services and most recently we have added in-city, on demand mobility options, where drivers will arrive in less than 10 minutes.

What are your plans for the UK and European markets?

The UK is the second largest country market for Blacklane after the US and twice as big as Germany. Airport transfers are very strong in the UK and we are now focusing our sales and marketing efforts on our City to City routes. The beauty of building up these routes is that vehicles never drive empty, which helps us make prices more attractive and improve sustainability. In many cases, these City to City routes challenge that last leg short-haul flights, providing a more sustainable and less stressful alternative where travellers aren’t running through the airport to make connecting flights, and they can also be more reliable than trains too. We recently opened a Chauffeur Academy in London and we also plan to introduce our on-demand, in-city services in both London and Paris. We’ve built up a strong UK sales team, which will continue to grow our market share among our customer base, which includes corporates, SMEs, TMCs and airlines.

What technology enhancements are you planning?

For our customers, we will be looking to develop technology to simplify the booking process. We will continue to learn how certain cities and routes behave to add more certainty to our customers. At the back end, we will be working on technology to help better utilise our capacity, avoiding downtime and being better prepared for unforeseen outside influences.

You have ambitious sustainability goals. Are you on track?

We have led the way with carbon offsetting, offsetting all rides back to our inception in 2011. Meanwhile, we are committed to electrifying our rides. In the UK and other leading cities more than 25% of our rides are already in electric vehicles and in two years we aim for this to be at least 75%. In Dubai, we’re already 100% electric. Our partnerships with Sixt and Mercedes-Benz Mobility means our chauffeurs will have access to deals on new cars, helping them to replace their combustion cars with electric vehicles.