Minicab app Kapten, launched last year to compete with Uber, has merged with Free Now, its sister company that offers a black cab service in London and virtual hailing of taxis across Europe.
The move, part of a major restructuring of ride-hailing operations within the Daimler-BMW mobility joint venture, will see the Kapten name disappear after less than a year of operation in London.
The new combined operation will use the Free Now brand and will bring both private hire and hackney services together under a single app.
Free Now says the move gives the combined business an increased scale in terms of cars and customer base. More than 35,000 drivers use the combined app in London alone. The merger will also ensure black cabs are available to a wider user base.
Both Free Now and Kapten are part of the jointly-owned BMW and Daimler mobility joint venture, announced in early 2019. Free Now launched in the UK as MyTaxi in 2011. Kapten, formerly the French-owned Chauffeur Prive operation, launched in London in May 2019. Kapten currently also operates in Paris, Lyon, Nice, Cannes, Lisbon and Porto.
Free Now commissioned research by Censuswide which revealed that Londoners wanted access to multiple transport options in any given location. Around 80% of passengers surveyed in January suggested that they would prefer it if there was one app that managed all transport booking needs such as public transport, bike sharing, and multiple taxi and private hire options.
Marc Berg, CEO of Free Now Group, said: “We are officially announcing the merger of our brands and technology at a very difficult time across Europe. The looming crisis undermines our business model, making it even more important for us to take this logical next step towards building sustainable and profitable growth in the coming years.
“The ride-hailing market is becoming more and more mature, meaning we are on an accelerated path to profitability. Beyond already planned strategic initiatives and a general industry trend, the challenges posed by Covid-19 will urge players in the on-demand-mobility sector to focus on driving the businesses towards profitability more than ever.
“Once lockdowns are lifted, there will be a new normal in the way people move around cities – we want to set the foundation now, so that our unique offering will give more flexibility and choice to passengers as well as more business for drivers.”
Mariusz Zabrocki, who led the launch of Kapten in London, will take over as general manager of Free Now UK. He said: “In the past few months we have seen the way we travel, shop, work and interact with each other change beyond recognition. We have also seen how the industry has come together to help in the crisis. From iconic black cabs getting vital NHS staff to hospitals, to Kapten cars delivering essential supplies to the vulnerable, communities have joined together to work alongside each other and help out where it really matters.
“Before the COVID-19 outbreak, London was a very competitive ride-hailing market and we are confident it will be again. However, passenger demand and the way we travel will change dramatically as a result of the virus; whether it’s the daily commute, working from home more often or socialising in different ways, our aim is to offer flexibility and the best possible service to passengers when the lockdown is lifted.”