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App heading to the U.S. aims to replace car ownership

App heading to the U.S. aims to replace car ownership
Imagine having all the benefits of owning a car without actually owning a car. This is the idea behind an app called Whim, developed by Helsinki based MaaS Global Oy. Currently operating in Helsinki (Finland), Birmingham (U.K.) and Antwerp (Belgium), Whim will provide transportation (via Bloomberg) to those who pay a monthly subscription fee. In Helsinki, a subscription gives members unlimited rides over the public transit system, taxi rides costing less than 10 EUR ($11.03 USD), and cheaper car rentals. An unlimited subscription costs 499 EUR per month, equivalent to $550 USD per month at current exchange rates. Weekend plans and other options are available.

MaaS Global Oy CEO Sampo Hietanen says, "This is what a car tends to represent to people, it’s this promise of freedom to go anytime, anywhere on a whim. We really need to concentrate on delivering that." To do that, the app will launch different tiers of service that will better compare with the private ownership of a car. And Whim is expected to start operations in two U.S. cities, Miami and Chicago, next year.

While it is way too early for automobile manufacturers to be concerned about the Whim app, Mitsubishi Corp. and Toyota Financial Services have both invested in the company. MaaS Global Oy's Hietanen says that Mitsubishi can help it work out deals with other companies to provide Whim subscribers with access to buses, city bikes, ride-sharing and taxis, and rental cars.

Whim's subscription-based model differentiates it from ride-sharing firms like Lyft and Uber which provide service using a pay-as-you-go system. Originally, Whim was launched using the same type of pricing before it started offering the subscription model. Before it starts offering the app in Miami and Chicago, the company is going to have to determine a monthly price level that would make it worthwhile for consumers in those cities to subscribe to the service instead of paying off a car loan.

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