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Car-Sharing Firm Turo’s U.K. Business Rebounds After Virus Slows

Amy Thomson

(Bloomberg) -- Car-sharing unicorn Turo is seeing business at its U.K. operation rebound from the Covid-19 lockdown.

The company lets drivers rent their vehicles to other users, but ride volumes in the market went from growing 350% year-over-year in the first quarter of 2020 to shrinking by as much as 80% in March and April, said Xavier Collins, who leads the firm’s U.K. unit.

Initial ideas about pivoting to other businesses, such as deliveries, were “too challenging from an insurance standpoint,” he said in an interview on Wednesday, and the company had to find ways to save cash.

“I had to shut the German office, which was pretty tough,” he said. “In the U.K., we had to furlough the team.”

Ride-hailing and car-sharing businesses struggled across the board as government efforts to stem Covid-19 restricted people’s movement. Even Uber Technologies Inc. posted its first-ever decline in bookings last quarter and recorded an 80% drop in rides in April.

Read more: Car-Sharing Companies Offer a Less Germ-Infested Route Forward

The pivotal moment was when Prime Minister Boris Johnson said one-day trips would be allowed in May, Collins said, adding that one host who uses Turo to rent out his car went from about one request a week to 20 in 15 minutes.

In June and July, rides jumped 300% from a year earlier. As of the second quarter, London is San Francisco-basedTuro’s second-largest market by rides after Los Angeles. The company has now brought back the employees it furloughed and is hiring once again.

Germany will stay closed for now, however, but the company plans to expand further into Europe in the next year or two, Collins said. It’s also looking to strike up more partnerships with carmakers to let dealers rent out their cars using its app. Turo has an agreement with Kia Motors Corp. in the U.K. as well as Nissan Motor Co. and Porsche in the U.S., and is in talks with more.

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