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Paris-based Virtuo wants to make airport car rental as easy as booking an Uber

TechCrunch TechCrunch 14/06/2016 Steve O'Hear

Paris-based Virtuo is a new startup in the car rental space that wants to make renting a car at airports and train stations a lot less painful. Targeting the so-called ‘Uber generation’ who have become accustomed to summoning a car with a single tap, the company is combining technology and its own fleet of Mercedes cars with the aim of giving incumbents, such as Avis, Europcar, and Hertz, a run for their money.

“The car rental experience within train stations and airports is painful and full of friction, and major car rental companies are failing to meet new travellers’ expectations,” says Virtuo co-founder Karim Kaddoura, citing mobile-first and an Uber-like seamless experience.

To that end, Virtuo’s mobile app claims a registration process that can be completed in 5 minutes, spanning account creation and credit card information to scanning your identity card and driving license. The latter is validated using facial recognition technology within the app in order to detect any potential fraud.

In addition, the app will help you navigate to the parking lot, where the Virtuo cars are available. You’re then asked to downloaded a ‘digital key’ onto your phone, which lets you unlock the vehicle using the app.

Before driving away, you’re also asked to inspect the vehicle and validate its associated damage report — presuming there is any prior damage — and if there are any unreported knocks you’re asked to take a photo and upload it through the app.

This self-service element presumably helps Virtuo scale and doesn’t require check-in desks that are typically staffed by incumbent car rental companies.

“We created a 100 per cent mobile and hassle-free car rental service: from registration to the locking/unlocking of your car, every step of the experience is done through the app, allowing you to skip the counter and hit the road within minutes,” explains Kaddoura.

“Additionally, our fleet is exclusively composed of Mercedes A class, giving our customers the guarantee to get the car they were promised with a high level of equipment, as all of our cars have standard navigation system, Bluetooth, and automatic transmission”.

Pricing starts at €49 per day, including an additional driver free of charge. The Virtuo app connected to the car also monitors the distance you travel and your fuel consumption. And if you need to talk to a member of staff at Virtuo, the app has an in-built chat feature.

At launch, Virtuo is available at a number of train stations in Paris (Gare du Nord, Gare de Lyon, Gare Montparnasse), and at airports Charles de Gaulle and Place de la Madeleine in the heart of the French capital city. In the next few weeks, the startup will add two moe airports, Paris Orly and Nice Cote d’Azur.

“I’s been an oligopolistic market for decades, preventing big players from rethinking their own business. Culturally, car rental companies are non-technical and poor at finding innovative solutions as their business model is hugely dependent on their counters and agencies, namely for upsell,” adds Kaddoura.

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