German leasing platform collapses as chip shortage bites

01 October 2021

German leasing platform Vehiculum has filed for bankruptcy, with the company saying the semiconductor shortage negatively affected business operations. Furthermore, talks with an investor were not fruitful. The company is now planning to restructure its activities.

The news comes as a surprise as Vehiculum quickly built a name in the leasing sector since its launch in 2015. Earlier this year, the startup partnered with supermarket chain Lidl and Sixt to offer its services to shoppers. The ‘Lidl car’ – a Kia Stonic that was available at a monthly rate of €135 – proved to be a success as demand quickly outstripped supply.

Plans fell through

The company also grabbed headlines last month when it was rumoured that Hg-backed MeinAuto Group, an online retailer for new cars in Germany, was going to acquire the business. Neither firm commented at the time.  

Autovista24 approached Vehiculum and MeinAuto Group, but the companies did not respond or comment prior to publication. In an interview with German news outlet Deutsche-Startups, Vehiculum founder and CEO Lukas Steinhilber explained why the Berlin-based company had filed for bankruptcy.

‘Unfortunately, the step was unavoidable,’ said Steinhilber. ‘The talks with an investor could not be concluded and the chip crisis caused an acute liquidity bottleneck that we were unable to close at short notice. But it goes on and we will try to find the best possible solution together.’

€10 million investment

It is unclear why talks between Vehiculum and its investor failed. In recent years, Coparion, Runa Capital and the SchneiderGolling insurance group have poured around €10 million into the startup. Unsurprisingly, the shortage of semiconductors impacted the business as the company found it difficult to source vehicles and had to contend with longer delivery times. All this combined had a detrimental effect on business operations.

Germany’s automotive industry, the biggest in Europe, is dominated by homegrown OEMs – most notably Volkswagen – and captive-leasing companies still hold a dominant position. The leasing market remains highly competitive, which has not deterred startups from stirring the pot. AutoScout24, one of the largest car marketplaces in Europe, last year acquired a majority stake in, another player that has mixed up the market.

Vehiculum prided itself on doing things differently. The young company aimed to make leasing transparent and simple by digitising the entire process. Its price-performance score allows users to quickly find the cheapest leasing rates.

While the business model sounds promising, statistics show nine out of 10 startups fail within the first 10 years of launching. Most of the time this boils down to companies making products no one wants, but even a great product cannot assure success. However, Vehiculum does not want to become a statistic. The company is looking ahead and is still hoping to recover from this blow by talking to an investor.