VW

Volkswagen’s financing arm has acquired Canadian mobile payments company PayByPhone, expanding the automaker’s push into mobility services for car owners.

Volkswagen Financial Services is paying an undisclosed amount for PayByPhone, which allows people to pay for certain parking spaces by mobile apps, phone calls or texts. The company claims to process $300 million in transactions annually.

As The Wall Street Journal reports, the deal is “the latest move by a car maker investing heavily to compete in a mobility arms race that is heating up in the auto industry.”

“Volkswagen wants access to proven technology to connect a variety of commerce opportunities and vendors to the cabin of a car and passengers looking for easier payment methods,” the WSJ explained.

Volkswagen Financial Services also recently acquired Sunhill Technologies, the largest cashless payment solution in Germany, and invested $300 million in Tel-Aviv-based Gett, which competes with Uber’s ride-hailing service.

PayByPhone, which was founded in 2000, handles payments for a total of 262,000 parking spaces in Paris, Boston, London, San Francisco and Seattle. CEO Kush Parikh said VW has “a charter to focus on general mobility services.”

“Outside of being the largest parking payment provider, the key asset we bring to the table is the relationship we have via our flagship mobile applications with our users,” he told TechCrunch. “The mobile relationship is a one-to-one relationship that can extend into a myriad of additional services.”

Automakers including Ford, Toyota, and BMW have been buying or investing in ride-hailing companies, car-sharing services and self-driving technology providers amid competition from Silicon Valley tech giants that are attempting to reinvent automobiles.

Vehicle insurers, service garages and local retailers are expected to be interested in working with automakers on how to profit from car-owner data and access.

“Whereas it is difficult to earn even a 10% profit margin on the sale of a car, some analysts and startup entrepreneurs estimate the margins that auto makers could reap on the selling of access to car owners and their data could exceed 75%,” the Journal noted.

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