Blacklane acquires Havn electric chauffeur firm

Jaguar Land Rover (JLR) has offloaded a majority stake in Havn, an all-electric chauffeur service, to Berlin-based Blacklane.

Along with being a regular backer of mobility companies including Lyft, Havn was set up by InMotion, JLR’s venture capital and mobility services arm in March 2020, following an 18,000-mile trial phase 

As well as raising revenue, the venture was designed to help deliver the British company’s Destination Zero campaign to lower CO2 emissions and reduce congestion.

Customers are driven in Jaguar’s electric SUV and each ride can be tailored in advance. For example, passengers can select music playlists, the temperature and their desired level of chauffeur interaction. These features are selected when customers prebook a ride on the Havn app.

The deal which was completed in November, adds London-based Havn’s Jaguar I-Pace taxis to Blacklane’s UK fleet of independently owned conventionally fuelled luxury and executive cars, which it has operated in the capital since 2013.

Chauffeur Company Blacklane was founded in 2011, offering high-end chauffeur services on-demand, but like all ride-hailing or passenger transport services, it has been hit hard by the Covid-19 pandemic. People are travelling and commuting significantly less than prior to global lockdowns. 

Whilst Blacklane does not disclose any ridership figures, it has stated its recovery “varies by city, depending on lockdown measures.” Airport transfers were a large chunk of its business and logically this will mostly have evaporated due to the Covid-19 pandemic. 

This, no doubt will be further complicated for Blacklane’s UK operation which relies on independent chauffeurs and chauffeur companies to provide their vehicles. With many leaving the industry to seek alternative employment outside of the chauffeur industry, or significantly decreasing their fleets, it would be fair to conclude the industry in general will be dramatically changed by Covid-19, and potentially more so for app-based companies relying solely on third parties to provide their service.

With less people within the industry, Blacklane’s margins within the UK could also be hit as those who remain in the industry could refuse to work at the current rates offered by the firm, or for that matter any similar company using a third party business model. 

Chauffeurs will have amassed significant debts over the past twelve months will not only need to recover those losses, but also be in a position to repay any extra Covid-19 related debt.

Blacklane airport business will no doubt be hit further due to international travel restrictions being brought in for those arriving in the UK from the 15 February 2021. Under the changes all arrivals at English ports will be required to undertake 2 mandatory COVID-19 tests – on day 2 and day 8 of their 10-day quarantine.

From Monday, anyone arriving who has been in a country on the UK’s travel ban list in the previous 10 days will be required to purchase a quarantine package at a cost of £1,750 which include assigned government transportation, food and drinks, accommodation in a government-approved facility, security, welfare and the aforementioned tests.

Blacklane isn’t alone, Uber and many others in the space have felt the brunt of the Covid-19 global pandemic as well.

In October 2020 Blacklane launched intercity travel services in a bid to boost business. Users can book a driver to bring them from city to city rather than take trains or buses. It operates in markets like the UK, Germany and the US. The company said it will be expanding this service in 2021.

It has raised about $77 million from investors, including Daimler, to date and the deal with Havn marks its second acquisition. In 2017 it acquired Solve, an airport concierge service in the US.

Havn isn’t the first electric mobility scheme in which the I-Pace has participated; last year, JLR announced plans to create a smart city hub in Shannon, Ireland.

Comprising an eight-mile private road-testing facility, the hub – which will be completed in September this year – will use a fleet of self-driving I-Paces to test how autonomous cars can share streets with cars, pedestrians and cyclists.

By Chris Hargreaves. chris@thechauffeur.com

TheChauffeur on YouTube

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