Business / Product

Car-booking apps start moving up the ladder

By Meng Jing (China Daily) Updated: 2014-08-20 08:56

Internet giants add spice to nation's growing luxury pickup services market with products to attract more wealthy customers, reports Meng Jing.

The battle of the taxi hailing apps seems to have slowed, with market leaders Kuaidi Dache and Didi Dache calling an end in early August to their months-long marketing campaigns, during which both poured hundreds of millions of yuan into subsidies and cash rebates for taxi drivers and passengers.

But a new competition targeting wealthy travelers is now picking up speed, as Kuaidi, which is backed by e-commerce giant Alibaba Group Holding Ltd, launched a new car-booking brand called Kuaidi One that offers pickup services with luxury cars and chauffeur services.

Didi, which is supported by Alibaba's rival Tencent Holdings Ltd, is reportedly set to launch a similar service in late August. It is said to be holding training sessions for drivers so they can offer better services to high-end customers. The company, however, denied such reports when reached by China Daily.

Along with the two major players in ride-summoning apps, Beijing-based Baidu Inc teamed up earlier this month with car rental company Yongche to launch a car-booking service called Baidu Zhuanche, a high-end pickup service for business travelers.

With Baidu jumping in, the sector is now a battlefield for all three of China's Internet giants.

Rather than sending regular taxis to pick customers up, these apps offer a wide array of luxury automobiles to choose from, well-trained drivers and such in-car facilities as bottled water, umbrellas, WiFi and even slippers.

Neither Baidu nor Yongche would reveal financial details of their partnership, but Yongche said in a statement on Aug 4 that by teaming up with Baidu, it will give its mobile users access to Baidu's mapping app.

Yongche, founded in 2010, is the largest Internet-basedcar-sharing service company in China, involving more than 50,000 vehicles in 74 cities.

Its team-up with Baidu is expected to challenge not only Kuaidi and Didi but also its Western counterpart Uber, a US ride-summoning mobile app that entered Chinese market in February.

Statistics from Analysys International, a Beijing-based Internet consultancy, showed that the online car rental market in China climbed 22.5 percent quarter-on-quarter to 3.98 billion yuan ($484 million) in the quarter ending in June.

Booking luxury cars with chauffeurs through an app is a niche market still in its infancy in China, but it shows great potential for future growth, said Li Zumin, manager of Kuaidi One.

"The difference between traveling in a taxi and a high-end car with a chauffeur is like the difference between staying in a regular inn and a five-star hotel. Even though the luxury hotel is more expensive, there are still people who want to pay more to enjoy better services, environment and facilities," said Li.

Li said through cooperating with carrental companies, Kuaidi One manages a fleet of more than 1 million cars across China, ranging from Volkswagen, Mercedes-Benz and Bentley.

The trial operation of Kuaidi One over the past several months has received positive feedback from the market, with monthly revenue exceeding 10 million yuan, according to the company.

Car-booking apps start moving up the ladder

Car-booking apps start moving up the ladder 

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