BMW and Daimler, Once Rivals, Join Forces to Fend Off Silicon Valley

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FRANKFURT — The German carmakers Daimler and BMW said on Wednesday that they would merge their car-sharing businesses as they try to compete better with Silicon Valley companies out to upend the traditional automotive industry.

Daimler, the maker of Mercedes-Benz cars, and BMW said they would put their respective mobility services — an array of apps and services that provide transport options for people who may not own cars — into a joint venture in which they will own equal shares.

The alliance is a major departure for BMW and Daimler, longtime rivals for the affections of affluent car buyers. Along with Volkswagen’s Audi division, the pair dominate the global market for luxury vehicles. Still, they are in danger of being overwhelmed by the superior financial firepower of new competitors from the tech world. Alphabet, Google’s parent company, which has invested in autonomous car technology, has a stock market value 10 times Daimler’s.

In addition to BMW’s DriveNow and Daimler’s Car2Go, which are like rental agencies but allow customers to book on short notice and use cars for brief periods, the agreement announced on Wednesday includes services that help customers hail taxis, find parking spots and charge electric vehicles.

“As pioneers in automotive engineering, we will not leave the task of shaping future urban mobility to others,” Dieter Zetsche, the chief executive of Daimler, said in a statement.

Virtually all major carmakers in Europe, in the United States and elsewhere are trying to remake themselves into “mobility companies” that do more than just mass-produce vehicles. But it is still an open question whether traditional automobile manufacturers can be as agile and technologically savvy as Silicon Valley companies, like Uber and Google, that are trying to change the very meaning of car ownership — and often have much greater financial resources.One of Daimler’s Car2Go vehicles in Brooklyn. It has a fleet of 14,000 in North America, Asia and Europe and claims to be the largest flexible car-sharing service in the world.CreditVictor J. Blue/Bloomberg

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