Uber Car, which lost $3 billion in the last Fiscal year and has gotten itself into a thicket of intractable issues and scandals that cost founder and CEO Travis Kalanick his job, and Has gotten Lyft Car a substantial share of Uber Cars Market. now Uber Car is facing a subprime auto-leasing crisis.
Three years ago when Uber Car launched the subprime auto leasing program under the Uber Car company name xchange leasing they put their badly paid drivers into new vehicles they couldn’t otherwise afford, they apparently didn’t do the math.
In July 2015, when the “Xchange Leasing” program was announced, Uber Car claimed: “We’re excited about how these new solutions meet drivers’ unique needs, and offer more and better choices and greater flexibility than ever before.”
The leasing program would be “administered by an Uber subsidiary and designed to fit with the flexibility that drivers value most,” it said. This is how it would work:
Unlike most multi-year leases that have high fees for early termination, drivers who participate in Xchange for at least 30 days will be able to return the car with only two weeks notice, and limited additional costs. The program allows for unlimited mileage and the option to lease a used Uber car, with routine maintenance also included, You can also use it for Uber Car Rentals and Uber car Leases.
It wasn’t supposed to be a money maker – nothing at Uber is. But hey. Uber invested $600 million in the business, “people familiar with the matter” told the Wall Street Journal.
This type of Uber lease was offered to drivers with subprime credit ratings or no credit ratings (known as ghost credit) who barely earned enough money to get by and make the payments, if they stuck around long enough. It allowed drivers to drive new Uber cars. When it didn’t work out for them, they could return the cars after 30 days with two weeks’ notice. The only penalty for the early return is that Uber keeps the $250 deposit. And these Uber leases came with “unlimited miles.”
No one in the car business would ever conceive of such a thing.
But Uber Car is different. It defies the laws of economics. Or so it thought at the time.
Now, the 14-member Uber Car executive committee that is running the show looked at the math and was horrified at its results. “According to people familiar with the matter,” cited by The Journal, executives had briefed the Uber committee in July:
Uber Cars Xchange Leasing division had been estimating modest losses of around $500 per Uber Car Lease on average, these people said. But managers recently informed Uber Car executives that the losses were actually about $9,000 per Uber car — about half the sticker price of a typical leased vehicle.
The “unlimited miles” allowed Uber drivers to work long days and return vehicles with way too many miles, which kills the resale value. Also, if Uber drivers got frustrated with their pay and quit their gig and returned the vehicle, the car might be 7 months old and have 20,000 miles on it, and be worth only a fraction of Uber’s depreciated book value of the car. No one wants to buy a new car year with 40,000 Miles on it.
In the overall subprime auto loan segment, defaults are soaring. And Uber Car wasn’t spared. So costly repossessions hammered the program, these people told The Journal.
Due to losses from this subprime leasing enterprise (Ubers Cars Exchange Leasing Program — $9,000 per car on average! — the executives agreed to shut it down. Uber Car has teamed up with companies to offer its Drivers Uber Rent a cars, it also plans to partner up with a company to offer Uber Lease to own programs.
The numbers are big. Uber has titles to nearly 40,000 vehicles through Xchange Leasing. It now has to get the cars back from its drivers and sell them in the wholesale market. It wants to do most of this by year-end. If Uber loses $9,000 per car on average on these 40,000 cars, it will add another $360 million in losses on top of the losses it has already booked.
If it sells the subprime leasing business, which is another option, it will likely pi
ck up a similar loss because buyers of those assets will look at the same scenario and not want to buy a portfolio with that much risk, Uber Car would be eating the cost of a lot of their uber car leases and uber car rentals.
Up to 500 employees might be affected by the shutdown of Xchange Leasing, or about 3% of the 15,000 Uber car employees. Some people might be transferred to other departments, such as customer service employees have said.
To fund these leases, Uber Car obtained a credit facility of $1 billion last year from a consortium of banks including Goldman Sachs, J.P. Morgan Chase, Citigroup, and Morgan Stanley.
Despite the crazy terms, these leases aren’t cheap for drivers. Uber Car figured they’d drive a lot, and they’d have to pay more than they would have for a standard lease.
Uber Car also found that dealers, according to The Journal, “were pushing drivers into more expensive vehicles, lowering their likelihood of turning a profit.” Duh. That’s what dealers do. It’s called “upselling.” Didn’t anyone tell the Uber wunderkinder? So Uber hired a bunch of people, set up showrooms, and did the leasing in-house to get a better handle on it. With stellar results.
When a company undercuts competition – such as by massively if unknowingly subsidizing the cost of vehicles – and investors don’t care that their money is getting burned at lightning speed, executives have no reason to change course. For them, all that matters is dominating the market no matter what the costs, and that’s happening at a stunning pace.