Tribecar buys Singapore's oldest car-sharing firm

Tribecar co-founder Adrian Lee said the acquisition "further solidifies our leading position in Singapore's car-sharing space". PHOTO: ST FILE

SINGAPORE - The first and oldest car-sharing outfit here has thrown in the towel. Started in 1997 by NTUC Income and acquired by Japan's Mitsui & Co in 2010, 25-year-old Car Club has been sold to six-year-old Tribecar, another home-grown operator.

Tribecar said in a press statement on Thursday (March 3) that the deal is "the biggest buyout in the local car-sharing scene", and will form the largest group of its kind here with a combined fleet of around 1,400 vehicles - 950 from Tribecar and 450 from Car Club.

Tribecar co-founder Adrian Lee said the acquisition "further solidifies our leading position in Singapore's car-sharing space".

"We can now advance our platform strategy and strengthen our end-to-end transactional capabilities by leveraging on Car Club's award-winning customer support services to improve on the overall experience for our customers," he added.

Mr Lee refused to reveal the sum his company paid to acquire Car Club. But according to industry sources, Car Club had been wooing suitors from last year, and was asking for $6 million to $7 million, which one potential investor said was "too high".

"Most of their cars are co-hired from other small rental companies," he said.

Car Club managing director Tomoya Ryuse told The Straits Times that the firm had been largely profitable in the past decade, but operations had been impacted by Covid-19 and high certificate of entitlement prices in the last two years. 

Mr Ryuse said Mitsui, where he had been seconded from, decided it was “time to transfer the business to a local ownership, so it is better positioned for future growth”.

Car Club general manager Lewis Chen said: "With this new relationship, we will have more resources to develop our car-sharing technology arm for businesses and corporations in the region."

Existing members of both outfits will eventually have access to services such as subscription plans, corporate programmes, premium luxury car options and a wider class of transport alternatives such as motorcycles, cars, vans and lorries, with rentals ranging from hourly to monthly arrangements.

Mr Lee said the two brands and their respective rental rates will be kept separate, but there is an intent to harmonise rates "in the long run".

The acquisition comes shortly after the sale of electric car-sharing firm BlueSG to local engineering group Goldbell last year, and the folding of niche car-sharing outfit Smove in 2020.

Currently, the market is crowded, with several newcomers such as GetGo, Lumens and Shariot competing for customers with older players like Grab and Lion City Rentals. Besides corporate clients and people who need a car occasionally for errands and outings, many of these firms also target private-hire drivers.

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