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Volkswagen links with ride-sharing in preparation for ownerless future


Global car giant Volkswagen has become the latest manufacturer to partner with a ride-sharing company to make sure it doesn't get left behind by a new generation of motorists who aren't interested in owning a car.

The maker, which produces some of the world's most desirable sports cars and owns iconic brands such as Porsche, Audi and Lamborghini, sees a future where it still has customers, but doesn't sell them cars.

"In future, many people will no longer own a car. But they can all be a Volkswagen customer in one way or another — because we will serve a much broader concept of mobility than is the case today," Volkswagen chief executive Matthias Muller told journalists on the eve of the Paris Motor Show.

Young urbanites are saying goodbye to owning a car and redefining what mobility means for them.

The future is electric. Nevertheless, classic powertrains will continue to play a key role for the next two decades at least.

Electric autonomous cars are expected to be the focus of Europe's major car show for the year and Volkswagen will unveil an electric concept car called the ID that it claims can drive for 600km between charges, with 15-minute recharging times. Those sorts of numbers would put an end to the major drawback of electric vehicles — range anxiety.

The maker plans to build 30 new electric vehicles by 2025, all spun off the same skateboard-like platform.

It is also launching a new brand that will focus on autonomous vehicles, ride-sharing and city shuttle services.

"Looking a little further ahead, we could also operate our own self-driving shuttle fleets once urban autonomous driving technology is ready," Muller says.

Muller says that despite the focus on different technology, the immediate future will rely on existing diesel and petrol-powered cars.

Car manufacturers are positioning themselves for a future without car ownership.

"The future is electric. Nevertheless, classic powertrains will continue to play a key role for the next two decades at least. We must and we will press ahead with the evolution of diesel and petrol engines. And at the same time we will progress with alternative technology.

Car manufacturers are positioning themselves for a future without car ownership. Instead, ride-share, rental and vehicle pools are expected to be the market's driving force.

"We have combustion engines over the next 20 years and we have growth of electrified cars and one day we will have a tipping point but I don't know when. Maybe 2025, 2030 I don't know. We have to be flexible for that moment."

But many in the industry believe the recent Dieselgate scandal, where the company was caught fitting "defeat devices" to pass strict emission tests, is likely to speed the demise of the diesel engine.

Muller says the recent controversy "is and will remain an incisive turning point, a pivotal event in our history. We are working with all available resources to get to the roots of this crisis and work our way through all of the issues. And we have made substantial progress in this regard in recent months. However, shaping a sustainable future for Volkswagen is at least as important," Muller says.

The motor show, which kicks off later today, is facing its own crisis, with some big name brands including Ford, Volvo and Mazda, deciding against attending. Glamour brands Bentley, Rolls Royce, Lamborghini and Aston Martin will also skip the show, preferring to spend the millions of dollars it costs to operate a stand on other marketing initiatives.

Would you trade your car for an autonomous ride-sharing service? Tell us what you think in the comments below.