BRIGITTE COURTEHOUX, CEO OF FREE2MOVE - INTERVIEW WITH WBM TOP 100 INNOVATION CEO
BRIGITTE COURTEHOUX, CEO OF FREE2MOVE HAS BEEN SELECTED BY THE JUDGES OF WORLD BIZ MAGAZINE'S ANNUAL AWARDS TO BE A RECIPIENT OF THE TOP 100 CEOS IN INNOVATION AWARD 2021.
THIS SELECTION FOLLOWS A STRINGENT PROCESS THAT EVALUATED OVER 40,000 NOMINEES TO SELECT THE EXCLUSIVE LIST OF 100 WINNERS.
Brigitte Courtehoux is Chief Executive Officer of Free2move and was appointed, in January 2021, to the Top Executive Team of Stellantis. She has built her career, first during 3 years at “Electricité de France”, and then in the automotive industry at Groupe PSA, on operations, projects, quality and business fields.
She joined Groupe PSA in 1998 and held Planning and Quality Manager positions in various car projects. In 2006, she became Chief of Staff of PSA Quality Director. In 2008 and 2009, she was Vice President Head of world-wide Quality Control Tower. Between 2010 and 2013, as Global Project Director, she successfully managed and launched the Peugeot Crossover “2008” in the European, Latin American and Chinese markets. In September 2013, Brigitte Courtehoux was appointed as Senior Vice President, head of Mobility and Connected Services Business Unit. She launched the Free2move brand in September 2016. In 2018, she became Executive Vice President and a member of Groupe PSA’s Global Executive Committee. At the beginning of 2020, her scope of responsibility was enlarged with the Business Lab (Groupe PSA’s new business incubator).
Brigitte Courtehoux holds an engineering degree from the “Institut National Polytechnique de Grenoble” and an Executive MBA from HEC Paris Business School.
"Free2move is a dedicated offer moving with its time. Customers are switching from ownership to usage. Free2move offers maximum flexibility through a seamless experience."
How is Free2move responding to the evolving mobility customer landscape?
Free2move is a leader when it comes to mobility, by structuring its service offer to meet new social, environmental and economic challenges the brand faces daily. As a global mobility brand, Free2move offers a complete and unique ecosystem for its private and professional customers in Europe and the United States. Being up-to-date in this fast changing world, Free2move has become a mobility hub that structures its service to accommodate all kinds of rental needs and additionally simplifies mobility in the broadest sense of the term by offering complementary services through the Free2move application.
Thanks to the power of the technological developments, Free2move is accelerating the deployment of its mobility services on an international level. By anticipating the user’s needs that will define tomorrow’s mobility and being attentive to the changes within our society, the brand intends to respond to current B2B and B2C customer needs.
Free2move is a dedicated offer moving with its time. Customers are switching from ownership to usage. Free2move offers maximum flexibility through a seamless experience.
One of the main challenges in the car industry is to keep the relationship with the customer. Contact is not usually more than once a year. As a mobility provider, we have a day-to-day customer relationship. It forces us to improve continuously the customer experience and thus encourage loyalty.
How does the Free2move solution stand out in the industry and what is unique about the company?
Free2move has a unique positioning by offering a complete mobility ecosystem for private and professional customers, available in one single App and its website, including tailor-made solutions that offer access to multiple vehicles. Those offers are flexible, fitting exactly with, and thanks to our marketplace model, working with partners, we are able to fit in an efficient way supply and demand.
In addition to offering mobility as a pay per use solution, in this new world of electromobility, proposing flexible offers as we do at Free2move is a way to make it easier to test EV cars for private customers or for rental owners before buying them/financially investing in them.
Going beyond a classical mobility provider, we use data to always improve customer experience. We are driven by data. Data of customer satisfaction, data of usage, data to improve business efficiency. Every action is driven by data analysis.
Also, thanks to car data, we are able to manage cars as energy storages, managing vehicle to grid. Let’s imagine how the paradigm is changing: we know that one of the most important factors that will change the costs of the energy industry is the question of storage. So, what an exciting time where cars are solving a part of this issue! Meanwhile, you also give the chance to the customer to reduce mobility costs in a world where the cost of mobility is increasing!
The brand’s agile and start-up management nature combined with proximity to a group such as Stellantis (who has access to dealerships), helps and funds the constant drive for innovation to develop the position that Free2move has as a leader of all forms of mobility at an international level.
"It is safe to say that cars will therefore not disappear anytime soon, but the way they are used will. First of all the upcoming demographical evolutions are significant and makes us interrogate our management of the car industry. In 2030, the world’s global population will have risen to close to 8 billion people, the urban population will represent 60% in comparison to 50% nowadays and the effects of congestion could rise by 50%."
Talk to us about how cities are responding to the permanent change in customer needs and the impact on the automotive industry?
From being the owner of a car to experiencing mobility, cars have been for a long time more than just an object by having a strong social image, symbolic to liberty and power. Recently this image has changed and cars have received a substantial amount of criticism. Nonetheless and despite the numerous new mobility alternatives on the market, the need and desire for individual mobility has always remained and the car remains irreplaceable in many situations (lack of public transport, inconvenient timeframes etc).
It is safe to say that cars will therefore not disappear anytime soon, but the way they are used will. First of all the upcoming demographical evolutions are significant and makes us interrogate our management of the car industry. In 2030, the world’s global population will have risen to close to 8 billion people, the urban population will represent 60% in comparison to 50% nowadays and the effects of congestion could rise by 50%.
In this context, the public players will reinforce themselves by regulating their consumption to limit their ecological footprint, many cities will look for ways to control the traffic by car in order to manage their problems regarding congestion, pollution, parking spots or reducing the number of accidents, by banning access for private car users.
In the meantime, they are reorganizing and developing their own urban transport systems and improving their infrastructure in order to continuously try to attract the new generation which has increasingly been confronted with the cons of traffic and pollution which influences the choice of where they would like to live.
Just as the world is at a pivoting point, the automotive industry is also at one. Until now, cars have always been seen as a symbol of status and freedom. We are shifting now from owning automobiles to using automobiles, but not only, we are also using bicycles or scooters. Just as millennials and Gen Z's are less likely to purchase a home, the younger generations are less likely to make an automobile purchase.
How has the COVID-19 pandemic shaped the demand from your customers?
This crisis has shown us to which extent, the freedom of movement is valuable to us individuals which we have received several hundred years ago with among others, the introduction of cars in our society. In contrast to that period, citizens ask themselves clearly which is the best way to optimize their use, by adapting their usage to their genuine needs. We saw an increase in car usage and need when COVID hit, as individual transport was/appeared to be safer than traveling with public transport.
People were feeling safer while driving an automobile rather than using public transportation.
I remember that during the big COVID crisis we shut down, because cities were down. So, before restarting our offer, we asked our customers if they were ready to restart, and if they wanted us to restart. More than 90% of our customers were asking us to restart, like a question of « life or death » in a way!
It’s clear that mobility as a service (with cars, bicycles, scooters, …) is the new way of moving around. After public transportation, car ownership, taxis, this new segment appears and has clearly taken its position after the COVID period.
"Data is going to have a profound impact on the future of mobility systems. Driver assistance and safety, liability management and insurance costs, ride-share and taxi services, delivery and logistics, geofencing applications will all be enhanced with the accurate data we will have access to."
Share some more insight into the role of data on mobility?
Data is going to have a profound impact on the future of mobility systems. Driver assistance and safety, liability management and insurance costs, ride-share and taxi services, delivery and logistics, geofencing applications will all be enhanced with the accurate data we will have access to.
Imagine car-share that automatically uses auto park after learning that most accidents occur in parking lots… Imagine geofencing techniques that limit new driver’s access to high-speed roadways… and imagine improved accuracy for delivery when parcels are tracked to the exact address of drop off… Better data means better Artificial Intelligence. And these are the types of improved mobility applications we can imagine thanks to data. What an exciting time!
What drives you as the leader of Free2move?
Most of all, what drives me is bringing the best experience to our customers in this world of flexibility. I work every day along with the teams to improve the customer journey. We are indeed constantly looking for the keys to future disruptions to satisfy our customers. And finally, what drives me is leading the team to success.
Share some insight into Free2move's growth plans?
Free2move is accelerating the deployment of its Mobility Hub services in US and Europe, as the needs of B2B and B2C needs begin to converge. This unique concept developed by Free2move simplifies vehicle access with tailor-made solutions to meet customer needs. Car-sharing, rental services and subscription are all united and directly available through the Free2move App, for seamless, on-demand use without long-term commitment.
As we ease the access to EV cars with our multiple services, we are additionally working on providing further access to charging points, at home or through public infrastructures provided by Free2move eSolutions and through technological work on the battery life cycle management to the integration of Vehicle-to-Grid technology (V2G).
"Therefore, it is important for us as a brand to move forward and face the challenges. The ecosystem is changing and additionally we have to move along with the dynamic mobility market and be attentive to customer needs, who are looking for renewal. We must know how to reinvent ourselves to achieve our objectives and meet the perspectives of the future."
What are the key messages you share with your teams to excite them about the scale of the opportunity you are addressing and Free2move's mission?
Today’s world experiences some profound changes linked to on the one side, the development of new marketplaces, the entrance of new digital technologies, environmental problematics and the evolutions regarding consumption. And on the other side, digitalism and the rapidity of consumption have transformed numerous industries. The new players have disrupted the market by creating networks in which clients are directly in contact with suppliers. In just a few seconds, clients can nowadays find a car using their smartphone, which takes less than 3 minutes or within 500-meter distance from them. The profound evolutions within our societies and the accelerated growth of new players on the market, will likely forever affect the decreasing need of owning a car in urbanized areas and will therefore create the entrance of a whole new market of mobility usage.
The ‘user centric’ approach has been able to bring a new experience of mobility, simplified with the trust based communities, through systems such as client–supplier. It has also more than anything created and cultivated an exclusive client relation: direct and permanent.
Therefore, it is important for us as a brand to move forward and face the challenges. The ecosystem is changing and additionally we have to move along with the dynamic mobility market and be attentive to customer needs, who are looking for renewal. We must know how to reinvent ourselves to achieve our objectives and meet the perspectives of the future.
Finally, apart from the economic and social objectives, everyone in our enterprise must know his or her individual importance regarding their job and their missions. It is important to remember the deep meaning of our job, especially in difficult times, this is what will help restore confidence in the current turbulence we are facing and for us to plan for a future marked by renewal.
But more than that, we all know that one of the most important issues today is the environment. The fact is that our world's resources are limited and we need to manage them in the right way. And what is so exciting today, is to note that automobile usage represents one of the biggest opportunities we have to make an impact on the planet.
"Diversity is a source of strength for me and Free2move. Having diversity in gender, in people, in culture brings success. So let’s continue to make it happen!"
From your experience as a woman leader that has taken Free2move internationally and delivered record successes, do you believe the industry has improved in regards to women?
The automotive industry is changing rapidly. As a woman with a long career in this industry, a sector that has traditionally been dominated by males, I can tell you that today demonstrates how far the industry has come. However women are still forced to be more rigorous and more constant on a daily basis vs male peers.
Diversity is a source of strength for me and Free2move. Having diversity in gender, in people, in culture brings success. So let’s continue to make it happen!
Free2move is the only global mobility brand offering a complete and unique ecosystem for its private and professional customers around the world. Relying on data and technology, Free2move puts the customer experience at the heart of the business to reinvent mobility. Free2move offers a range of services to satisfy the multiple travel needs of its customers from one minute to several days or months with car-sharing service, short, medium or long-term rental as well as the reservation of VTC drivers, parking spaces and charging stations via the app.
Free2move Mobility in figures worldwide: 2 million customers, 450,000 rental vehicles, 500,000 parking spaces, 250,000 charging points (in Europe).