App-connected private car service Uber officially launches in China

Currently, Shanghai is Uber's most profitable market on the mainland

PUBLISHED : Monday, 17 February, 2014, 11:19pm
UPDATED : Monday, 17 February, 2014, 11:27pm

American online car booking service Uber officially revealed its Chinese name and brand at a February 13 launch event last week in Shanghai. 

Going by the Chinese name You Bu (优步), the San Francisco company offers a popular app-connected private car and limousine service.

Users can choose from a selection of vehicles including Mercedes S-Class, Audi A8 and BMW 7-series models, all for a base fare of 30 yuan (HK$ 38).

A Chinese-language version of Uber has been available for Shanghai residents since August 2013, but customers were previously only able to pay in US dollars. 

During its February 13 launch event, Uber officially revealed that its services have been localised to support online payments via Alipay, China’s top e-payment provider.

The company declined to reveal how many Shanghai rides it has completed since August, but Sam Gellman, head of growth for Uber Asia, said that Shanghai had quickly become the company's top market in China.

"Shanghai has the highest degree of internalisation of all of China's mainland cities, and Uber, a service that lets people travel more conveniently, is consistent with the Shanghai lifestyle," Gellman said, in statements transcribed by technology blog Pingwest.

"Uber has run trial operations in Shanghai...and our Shanghai registered users [currently outnumber] our users in other Chinese cities such as Shenzhen and Guangzhou." 

Aside from its branches on the mainland, Uber has also announced plans to expand into Hong Kong. The company has begun promoting Hong Kong-based services on social media services such as Twitter, but currently no official launch date has been revealed.

Uber is not the first web-connected private car service in China, and domestic startup Yongche, which offers both car rental and limousines with drivers, is the American company's main competitor. 

A Tech in Asia comparison found that Yongche, which already operates in 38 cities across the mainland, held a logistical advantage, while Uber was more flexible in terms of immediate pick-ups and a lower minimum fare for top-end vehicles.

Additional reporting by Jeremy Blum