Posted on May 7, 2019 by staff

Innovative car rental firm reveals UK expansion plans


An innovative car rental firm has outlined its plans for the UK after launching in London and Manchester.

Last month Virtuo launched at Heathrow, joining ten existing locations across London, while last week the Q-Park near Manchester Piccadilly became its first base outside the capital.

With the Virtuo app, customers can book and unlock rental cars with their smartphone.

Karim Kaddoura – who grew and sold car start-up neowebcar – co-founded the business in 2015 after regularly encountering hidden fees, limited opening hours and long queues at pick-up and returns.

Now with around 60 staff in its Paris headquarters and satellite offices in London and Barcelona, the firm has raised a total of $33.5m in investment.

Kaddoura told BusinessCloud that Virtuo will expand its Manchester operation and also launch in Edinburgh and Bristol later this year.

“We are planning to grow the team to around 100 people across Europe by the end of the year,” he said.

“London and the UK are a strategic market for us. London is the biggest car rental market in Europe, and its low car ownership, and young, tech-oriented population make it the perfect market for us.

“We hope it will be an even bigger market than Paris for us one day.

“We have very ambitious plans for the next few months. We have already doubled our business in the UK since Christmas and are planning to do the same between now and the summer.

“We will also be continuing our pan-European expansion, launching in locations across Spain and Germany.”

Kaddoura believes that parked cars could soon be a thing of the past as the world is changing how it moves around.

“Car ownership will continue to fall in the coming years, particularly as the sharing economy continues to gather pace,” he said.

“We are increasingly ‘primed’ for on-demand, convenient and seamless solutions. With many mobility providers in urban environments and cities increasing in size, there is a natural decline in car ownership.

“Changing attitudes to cars mean that they are no longer seen as a status symbol by younger generations. As a result, they are looking for convenient, on-demand and cost-effective solutions that adapt to their everyday lives.”

Paris offers the company access to a strong engineering culture and blossoming tech sector, he said, which will allow it to follow in the footsteps of Paris-based tech successes Deezer, BlaBlaCar, and Doctolib.

The firm’s last round of investment in February saw €20m secured from historic investor Balderton Capital along with two new investors, will also power its growth in the UK, which continues despite Brexit uncertainty.

“We are confident that we are addressing a need that exists and is here to stay and will increase due to falls in car ownership no matter what happens,” he said.

The company is attempting to reduce the 96.5 per cent of idle time cars currently suffer.

“There is a real need for change,” he said. “Urban mobility is a highly competitive market with new players continually popping up. For us it’s about inter-city travel and trips away from the city.

“This is the market which the traditional car rental companies service, and have dominated for so long, and this is the $60bn market that we are going after.”