3 automakers add to mobility ventures

The push by automakers into new mobility ventures gathered fresh momentum last week.

German luxury rivals BMW and Daimler have each made new investments in transportation companies, and Ford Motor Co. has opened a smart mobility office in the U.K.

BMW’s i Ventures, formed in 2011 to invest in startups and high-growth future mobility companies, has taken a stake in Proterra, a Silicon Valley manufacturer of heavy-duty electric mass transit vehicles.

Proterra says it controls 60 percent of the electric mass transit market in North America. The company says it has sold more than 400 vehicles to 39 municipalities, universities and commercial agencies in the U.S.

The amount of BMW i Ventures’ investment was undisclosed, but Proterra said it was part of $55 million in funding from investors that also included Generation Investment Management, founded by former U.S. Vice President Al Gore.

The investment marks BMW i Ventures’ first in heavy-duty electric mass transit vehicles, Proterra says.

“BMW i Ventures invests in companies that will transform mobility and transportation, and Proterra is pushing the transit industry forward with the most innovative heavy-duty electric bus,” BMW i Venture partner Zach Barasz said in a statement. “Due to Proterra’s efforts, electric mass transit is overtaking fossil-fuel buses as the new standard.”

No other terms of the investment were disclosed.

Proterra said it will use the funds to increase production at its two manufacturing plants, in South Carolina and near Los Angeles, and to strengthen r&d at its headquarters.

Meanwhile, Daimler is among investors that have put $150 million into Dubai-based ride hailing firm Careem, which will step up expansion into new markets.

After the fundraising, Careem, an Uber rival operating in 12 mainly Middle East countries, wants to move into north Africa, such as Tunisia and Algeria, while strengthening its position in Kuwait and Turkey, CEO Mudassir Sheikha told Reuters.

Ford announced it is opening an office in London focusing on future mobility solutions for Europe.

Ford’s new venture will hire around 40 specialists and open later this year. It is the automaker’s third such “smart mobility” office. The others are in Dearborn, Mich., and Palo Alto, Calif. Ford has plans for a trial plug-in hybrid transit fleet in the U.K. this year.

Cameron La Fontaine and wire reports