BMW, VW, and the Rest — What Happens if They Decide to Roll Over?
The news this month is that BMW has purchased “Drive Now”, a car sharing company based primarily in Europe. This, added to its recent takeover of Parkmobile, and a number of other like companies, makes the BMW group “the world’s leading provider of digital parking solutions.”
According to its press release, the company hopes to have over 100 million customers by 2025.
For those of you who think this is just another aberration, it’s time to wake up. BMW is not alone setting its sights on parking. Volkswagen has PaybyPhone under its wing. What is to say that other pay by cell companies, particularly those heavily funded by VC money, aren’t on the block? It would take the equivalent of a financial rounding error for companies like GM, Ford, Toyota, Chrysler-Fiat, Google, SAP, IBM, Amazon, Apple, Microsoft and the like to take the digital side of our industry by storm.
And why not? The existing digital parking companies are doing the heavy lifting now. They are spreading the word, taking the startup hits, and laying the groundwork for takeovers. Companies like those listed above have cash to burn. Why shouldn’t they enter our market?
As ‘connected cars’ continue to come on line the desire of car companies to have parking solutions built in is obvious. Think about a seamless process of heading for your car, telling it where you want to go, having the fastest route on your dash, and ensuring that parking is convenient, reserved, and paid, all automatically. If BMW owns all the companies that provide those services, and builds them in, it sure makes their vehicles attractive to consumers.
Who knows which digital parking companies are in discussions right now. Which pay by cell, parking reservation, or parking location company will be next?
It’s a day later, I’m reading a report on Parknews.biz. Doncha just love it when actual facts on the ground prove you right? Heh. I do.
Above, I posited that parking tech companies may find themselves in the sights of major auto companies for assimilation. And then, just today, Dish Network announced that it had purchased ParkiFi, a sensor-based data collection company from Denver.
“I think 80 percent of the ParkiFi team’s experience goes beyond parking,” said Dish executive vice president Tom Cullen, who oversees the Douglas County company’s wireless business. “Once we started talking, our research showed that parking is a big market and an adequate opportunity for us to compete in. But beyond parking, there’s a number of other applications and verticals that internet of things can address and their expertise from design, development and IP development can influence or extend into those other (areas).”
Wow – 22-billion-dollar Dish Network finds that parking is an industry pool in which it can swim. OK it’s not an auto company, but the theory is the same.
I’m asked frequently if the parking industry is in the midst of consolidation. When we think of that we consider the legacy companies (and that’s happening – consider T2 and Parkingsoft) but more than not it’s technology companies that are being rolled up. Parkmobile, PaybyPhone, Parkme, ParkX, and now ParkiFi to list just a few.
As ‘connected cars’ continue to come on line the desire of car companies to have parking solutions built in is obvious.
The tech industry has hundreds of billions to invest, and parking has young, bright companies that are just waiting for a potential buyer.
As Dish noted above, parking is a big market, but also the technology being developed can be extended to activities beyond parking. Iot, (that’s Internet of Things, luddites) as much as I hate the term, is real. And all the companies I listed above are hip deep in it.
Are you a tech company in the parking industry? If I were you, I would be looking over my shoulder. This might not be a bad thing, but remember that the first thing that happens is, for whatever reason, the founders and innovators leave.
Is this a good thing or a bad thing? I can be persuaded either way. Good? Suddenly as an industry we have the funding to take us to the next technological level. Bad? When monster companies take over, individuals often are left in the dust. This is particularly true of the innovators, the founders and leaders. It’s not hard to list the companies that have been ‘taken over’ and their leaders have left shortly after to “pursue other interests.” What IBM or BMW or Microsoft thinks is in their best interests may not be in the best interest of our industry as a whole.
A Canadian friend once told me that living next to America was like sleeping next to an elephant. You just hope it doesn’t roll over.
Do you think this ‘roll up’ is over? Guess again, my friend. It's only beginning.