French automaker PSA Group has taken the first step towards returning to the North American market. Part of its Push to Pass strategy, PSA has partnered with French insurance firm MAIF to bring the TraverlCar car-sharing service to the United States.
TraverCar is unique in that it provides travelers cars owned by other people who also happen to be traveling. It works by giving people flying out of their town free parking at an airport in exchange for allowing TravelCar to rent the car out to someone who is flying in.
If the car is rented, the owner gets a cut of the rental charges, which TravelCar says are roughly 50 percent less than those of a traditional rental car company. The service will start rolling out at LAX airport in Los Angeles and SFO airport in San Francisco on April 1.
The introduction of TravelCar in the U.S. gives PSA the opportunity to study the U.S. market and customers’ needs. The learnings will be valuable in staging its return to North America, which the automaker is planning to do in 2026.
It’s possible that PSA will eventually place its own vehicles, from its Peugeot, Citroen, or DS brands, into the TravelCar fleet, also with the goal of receiving feedback from American drivers, which could be useful in guiding the products it wants to eventually offer in the U.S.
“We announced our progressive entry to North America by launching mobility services with our partners,” said PSA’s head of mobility services Grégoire Olivier, in a release. “We deploy these services worldwide to meet customers’ expectations. With TravelCar today, we’re writing the beginning of this new step overseas.”
PSA is embarking on a long-term strategy to return to the North American market in roughly 10 years, while also being in advanced stages of negotiations to buy GM’s European Opel-Vauxhall unit. Informally known as Opel, the unit consists of the Opel brand, which is sold all over Europe except for the United Kingdom, as well as the British Vauxhall brand, which is sold exclusively in the U.K. The two firms are reportedly looking to finalize negations by March 1, prior to the start of the 2017 Geneva International Auto Show. If the acquisition is successful, PSA could eventually bring the Opel brand to North America, if it deems fit.