In taking a stake in Planet42, described as a car subscription platform, Naspers has got its foot in the door of the used car market.
This follows its unsuccessful play in 2020 to acquire a 60% interest in WeBuyCars, after the Competition Commission ruled that the investment would reduce competition in the used car market.
Whether the commission’s arguments were valid can be debated, seeing that Naspers’s existing exposure to the used car market is limited to its ownership of advertising sites, such as AutoTrader and OLX, but does not include trading in used cars as such.
In contrast, WeBuyCars is a used car dealership that buys and sells cars on a bigger scale than traditional used car dealerships.
Planet42 is a different animal, operating in the used car market, but not directly selling pre-owned cars. Its offering can best be described as a financial service that helps people to buy cars by utilising a rent-to-own model.
Naspers says in an announcement that its investment of R54 million ($3.4 million), as part of Planet42’s capital raise of R91 million ($5.8 million), will go a long way to address transport inequality in SA. The raising of new equity is supplemented with R380 million ($24 million) of debt.
“The investment is part of a R91 million ($5.8 million) equity round led by Naspers Foundry, alongside existing investors Change Ventures and Startup Wise Guys.”
It adds: “Existing debt investors, such as the impact debt fund Lendable, added a further R380 million ($24 million) of debt.”
Planet42 was founded in 2017 and addresses transport inequality by offering an inclusive car subscription service to customers who typically cannot access traditional bank credit.
The firm says that in emerging markets such as SA, vehicle finance and, by implication vehicle ownership, is out of reach for most low- and middle-income earners.
“This lack of access to reliable, efficient and safe transport can present enduring obstacles, perpetuating inequality and restricting economic mobility,” says Phuthi Mahanyele-Dabengwa, CEO of Naspers in SA.
“Access to a personal vehicle at an affordable price can be life-changing and a way to level up quickly ….
“At Naspers, we are passionate about building leading companies that empower people and enrich communities and we support Planet42’s mission to make a positive impact on people’s lives by addressing transport inequality. This investment builds on Naspers’s growing mobility portfolio, which includes WhereIsMyTransport, AutoTrader and OLX Autos, among others,” she points out.
Fabian Whate, head of Naspers Foundry, says Naspers is the first South African investor to support Planet42 in its next phase of growth.
“Planet42 is an innovative solution to addressing transport inequality in South Africa and beyond and has the potential to unlock further economic participation.
“This fits in with our focus of backing purpose-driven technology businesses.”
Planet42 maintains that its proprietary scoring algorithms are the foundation from which the company is able to bridge the financing gap in the vehicle market in a responsible way by using a wider range of data sources than banks’ traditional credit scoring methods.
The algorithms aim to determine a suitable budget for each customer and, based on this, subscribers to Planet42 can choose any new or pre-owned car from Planet42’s network of more than 700 car dealerships.
Planet42 buys the car and rents it out to the customer on a subscription basis, with the option to buy the car. The offering enables customers to either buy or return the car to Planet42 at any time.
Of the customers served so far, 89% would have had no other means of gaining access to a personal vehicle.
Eerik Oja, CEO and co-founder of Planet42 explained the details.
A buyer can look for any car at any of the dealerships that work with Planet42.
Planet42 will buy the car and rent it to the user or potential owner (if the person elects to purchase the car at a later stage).
“Having access to a personal car is arguably a needless luxury in London, but could change your life in a city like Johannesburg,” says Oja.
“A personal car means that you can get to work reliably or you can apply for that job that is farther away from your home.
“To date, we have bought nearly 10 000 cars for South Africans, 89% of whom would not have a car without us – meaning that they were rejected by providers of other financing options.
“The data about the payment behaviour of these customers is something no other player on the market has, because they are not serving this customer segment,” he adds.
“This means that even with looking at the same exact data as the banks do, we can make better decisions on which customers to buy a car for.”
Planet42 believes transport inequality is a global issue, arguing that there are hundreds of millions of people around the world who can afford a vehicle but are unfairly ignored by banks.
“Our vision is to help bridge the mobility gap in whatever areas of the world we can have an impact,” it says.
“This is because banks and other traditional lenders are too conservative, depriving deserving people of the chance to prove their creditworthiness.”
Banks focus on serving customers with super high credit scores, as up to 90% of vehicle finance applications are rejected by banks, according to Planet42.
“Planet42’s car subscription model is unique because we focus on the underbanked customer and the second-hand car market,” says Oja.
“The simplicity and convenience of Planet42’s subscription model provides significant advantages over the traditional car retail approach for customers and dealers alike.
“Dealers who work with Planet42 experience an average increase in sales of 26%,” he adds.
Oja says the new capital will be used to expand Planet42’s car inventory in both SA and Mexico, where the company started to operate only recently.
It would put the company on track to achieve its ambitious global goal of providing a million cars to people facing transport inequality by 2025.