SAN FRANCISCO: A partnership between Uber Technologies and Banco Santander SA's US auto loan unit is over, Uber told Reuters, removing one of the country's most prominent car lenders from a programme trumpeted by the app-based ride service.
Uber launched a program in November 2013 to link prospective drivers who do not have a car with manufacturers and lenders, in the hopes it would boost the number of cars on the road for the app-based service.
The deal received widespread press attention at the time, and Uber said it hoped to finance 100,000 drivers.
Uber partnered with multiple lenders including Santander Consumer USA Holdings Inc and Exeter Finance, which is owned by private equity firm Blackstone Group LP.
It could not be determined why Uber's deal with Santander ended.
"We are no longer working with Santander Consumer USA but continue to facilitate a variety of other vehicle financing options and auto manufacturer discounts for driver-partners," a spokesperson at Uber told Reuters.
Spokespeople at Santander and Exeter declined to comment.
Uber operates in 57 countries with an estimated value of more than US$40bil (RM152.43bil). It had a total of about 162,000 active US drivers in December 2014, according to the company.
Santander Consumer, which is 59% owned by Banco Santander, said in November it received more than 900,000 loan applications per month from a variety of sources, including auto manufacturers, online services and over 17,000 dealers.
Uber has not disclosed how many drivers received financing from the Santander programme or other lenders that struck deals with the ride-sharing company.
Uber's relationship with Santander was active as recently as February, according to a Santander website preserved on an Internet search archive. The site said drivers could sign up for Uber and then lease a new car for as little as US$17 (RM65) per day. "At end of term, you can own the car for US$1 (RM3.80)," it said.
As of July 23, the site apologised to visitors and said "this programme is currently unavailable," before directing customers to Santander Consumer's main web page.
Santander has been the target of criticism for its subprime auto loan business. The company disclosed a civil subpoena from the US Department of Justice and other regulatory agencies for documents related to underwriting and securitisation of such loans.
It is not clear whether the investigations were related to Uber's decision. – Reuters