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Is Moia the vehicle to restore VW's reputation?

As one of Germany’s ambassadors shaping the world’s view of the country, Volkswagen will stay under the spotlight in 2017 thanks to its rigged emissions readings and noxious corporate culture.

It is certainly trying to turn the corner by pinning its hopes on a new on-demand ride service, MOIA.

A cross between Uber and a public bus, it will pick up its passengers in an electric car via its app, but travel only on a set route.  Where there’s only one passenger on board, MOIA is planning on outsourcing the journey to Gett, bought by VW earlier this year as a rival to Uber.

As VW sees it, MOIA will initially aim to complement existing public transport services which should earn some brownie points from the German public.  Being set up as a stand-alone company in Berlin, this is a smart approach to minimise the taint of its bureaucratic parent and manage reputational risk, much like Tesco establishing its Fresh & Easy brand for the US market.

As the shared economy trend gains traction, and car ownership continuing to decline in the world’s largest and crowded cities, VW hopes this will help future-proof its business while driving growth in less linear ways.  Expecting revenues of over $2 billion by the end of the decade, we will see if this bet pays off for a company desperate to throw off its corporate villain mantle.

Key to their success is ensuring the localisation of the service as it expands outside of Germany.  Will the MOIA brand name work everywhere? Will its rivals – including Uber – stand by and not develop their own disrupting services? Will consumers find value in such a service over using public transport already on offer?

Like any global brand, internationalisation requires up-front investing in doing its homework, careful listening and a willingness to adapt the template.

Given the legacy of its VW parent, MOIA is going to need to make a clean break to succeed.  Let’s hope for shareholders this bet pays off.

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