Car-sharing company GoTo pulled out of Malta after a “lack of user uptake” worsened by the pandemic made the operation “financially unsustainable”.

The company announced on Sunday that it was quitting Malta after only four years because its shareholders withdrew their support. However, they did not elaborate on the reason behind the decision.

GoTo’s electric cars and mopeds could be picked up by drivers without a reservation and left behind in any of the dedicated parking spots dotted around the country.

It was the only car-sharing service in the country and had been seen as one solution to Malta’s overreliance on private cars for commuting.

Slow uptake

However, a spokesperson for Debono Group, which is a minority shareholder in the Malta company, told Times of Malta that its international and local shareholders had been disappointed by the results.

“The pandemic, as well as the lack of user uptake of the service in the long-term had a negative effect on the service,” the spokesperson said.

“Over the past years, the GoTo Malta operation became financially unsustainable.”

Debono Group, which also owns a controlling influence in ride-sharing platform Cool, said it had invested in GoTo because it believed it was an innovative service.

GoTo Malta’s accounts, last published for 2020, showed it was operating at a pre-tax loss of €730,000 by the end of that year. In 2019, the first full year of the company’s operations, it ran at a loss of €270,000.

A spokesperson for GoTo told Times of Malta that, although the company had begun to “garner traction” when it launched in late 2018, the COVID-19 pandemic “deeply impacted” operations when it hit in 2019.

It said rides were “almost flatlining”.

“Although we had started to see a resurgence of ride volume in 2022, the local shareholders of the company opted to withdraw their support for the company,” the spokesperson said.

Not all shareholders backed the decision to withdraw support, however.

Minority shareholder Anton Tabone told Times of Malta that he was willing to remain on board.

However, all other shareholders, including the Debono Group, Gozitan businessman Michael Galea and GoTo Global Mobility wanted to leave.

GoTo announced on Sunday that it will end its Malta operations at the end of the month.GoTo announced on Sunday that it will end its Malta operations at the end of the month.

Galea claimed disagreements between Debono Group and GoTo Global further discouraged all from pushing further.

He also pointed out that tourism and foreign workers, who were the majority of users, “left the country in droves during the pandemic”.

Uptake, however, remained low even after restrictions and worries related to the virus waned.

Charging pillar challenges

“Obviously, car ownership remains the undisputed ‘solution of choice’ for most commuters in Malta,” the GoTo spokesperson said.

Besides the lack of uptake, the high cost of operating a shared electrical fleet and a lack of charging stations created operational issues, a source who preferred to remain unnamed, said.

GoTo’s departure is a spanner in the government’s plans to electrify Malta’s motor fleet. NSO statistics from July show that just under 2,300 passenger cars are fully electric in Malta out of a total of around 315,000 cars.

GoTo Malta’s parent company GoTo Global Mobility is also under pressure, according to financial records. Publicly listed on the Tel Aviv Stock Exchange, GoTo has lost 60 per cent of its share value since it first offered public stock options in June. Share prices opened at 45.6 Israeli shekels declining to a present stock price of 18.20 ILS.

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