Ride hailing and autonomous vehicles technology company Uber has struck a deal with Nissan on the purchase of 2000 all-electric Nissan Leaf cars that it will offer to its London drivers at a steep discount. The announcement, which was made by the Japanese car maker, comes despite the fact that Uber has the threat of losing its London license still hanging over its head.
NYSE-listed technology giant saw its London license to operate revoked in November, pending appeal. Transport for London took the decision after it was found that there had been numerous instances of drivers answering Uber orders not having the relevant approvals to do so.
The fraudulent drivers were exploiting a weakness in Uber’s system that meant the photos on the profiles of approved drivers could be replaced without any checks taking place. That allowed non-registered drivers who had access to approved profiles to upload their own picture to avoid suspicion when fulfilling orders.
The order for the 2000 Nissan Leaf cars will also be a major boost for the Japanese carmaker’s Sunderland plant, which has been threatened with closure. It will go some way to the plant reaching the sales targets set as a condition for being kept open. Transport secretary Grant Schapps hailed the announcement as “fantastic”.
Uber will presumably hope the initiative may go some way to improving its reputation in the eyes of TfL. It has committed to a plan to have all 45,000 of its registered drivers in London using electric cars by 2025. Losing its appeal against the decision to revoke its London operating license would count as a major blow to Uber, whose share price has struggled since it listed on the NYSE through an IPO last May. The capital counts as one of its biggest markets outside of the USA, with 3.5 million Londoners and tourists to the city using the app.
Jamie Heywood, Uber’s regional general manager for Northern and Eastern Europe commented:
“The partnership with Nissan is a hugely significant step towards meeting this goal (for all London Uber drivers to be using EVs within 5 years)”
Ordinarily, the base model cost for a Nissan Leaf is £26,345, including the UK government’s £3500 grant towards the purchase of EVs. The car is the world’s best-selling EV, with more than 400,000 cars sold since it was launched in 2010. How popular it becomes in the UK and Europe over the next couple of years will be a deciding factor in the survival of Nissan’s Sunderland plant. It is the only place outside of Japan where the Leaf is manufactured.
Around 4500 Nissan Leafs were sold in the UK over 2019. That means the order of 2000 from Uber will significantly lift UK sales this year. If the offer proves particularly popular among Uber drivers, Nissan said it could increase the number of cars included in the discounted deal. The company declined to say exactly how big the discount offered would be.
Uber drivers will also be able to make use of funds they have built up through the company’s Clean Air Initiative. Launched last year, it sees 15p added to customer fairs for every mile they travel. The money has been set aside and goes towards the driver buying an electric car. That means that over two years, an Uber driver working around 40 hours a week would expect to build up a fund of around £3000 towards an all-electric vehicle.
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