Didi Chuxing aims to improve taxi industry in Hong Kong with ‘premium taxis’

The premium taxis have improved interiors and boast extra features such as mobile chargers for passengers, while the exteriors are Didi-branded so that passengers will be able to easily identify a premium taxi

PUBLISHED : Monday, 04 July, 2016, 8:44pm
UPDATED : Tuesday, 05 July, 2016, 9:24am

Chinese ride-hailing giant Didi Chuxing has started upgrading its taxi business in Hong Kong to a premium service and introducing a health and welfare scheme for its drivers, according to a company executive.

Ng Shu-kei, manager of Didi Chuxing in Hong Kong, said the company was working with registered taxi drivers of its Kuaidi cab-hailing service to launch its “premium taxi” service in the city.

Didi Chuxing rebranded in September last year, following an earlier merger between Alibaba-controlled Didi Kuaidi and Tencent-backed Kuaidi Dache in February. Both apps still operate under separate brands in China, although Kuaidi’s taxi hailing app also serves the Hong Kong market.

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Didi Chuxing is co-operating with taxi owners and drivers to upgrade their existing fleet for highly-rated drivers on the Kuaidi app, according to the company.

The premium taxis have improved interiors and boast extra features such as mobile chargers for passengers, while the exteriors are Didi-branded so that passengers will be able to easily identify a premium taxi. Drivers will also be better dressed and trained to provide improved quality of service, Ng said.

“Taxi standards in Hong Kong have much room to improve. Instead of just [complaining about] drivers, we believe that at Didi we can do something to improve the quality of taxi services,” Ng told the Post.

The launch of Kuaidi’s premium taxi service comes as the Hong Kong government mulls over introducing three premium taxi franchises to operate up to 600 taxis, in a bid to monitor the trade.

A paper submitted to the Legislative Council’s transport panel last month revealed an increase in the number of complaints about the taxi industry, including shabby vehicles, drivers refusing hire and passengers being overcharged.

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“The government’s consultation paper talks about providing 600 premium taxis. But in Hong Kong, we have 60,000 taxi drivers,” Ng said. “If we want to fulfil [quality standards], trying to improve current taxi drivers’ services may be more efficient and we are trying to bridge the gap.”

Over one-third of the total number of taxi drivers in Hong Kong have already signed up for Kuaidi’s app, according to Didi Chuxing. Currently, there are 50 Kuaidi premium taxis on the road, with about 100 quality drivers who will operate the vehicles, Ng said.

While Kuaidi users cannot currently hail a premium taxi on-demand, Ng said the option may be rolled out in the future to allow users to choose once the company has reached a certain threshold.

Didi Chuxing also rolled out a welfare programme for its drivers at the beginning of this month. Drivers will be offered free health screenings once they reach a certain number of trips through the Kuaidi app, and will be offered recreational activities as well.

“Through the welfare programme with a range of benefits to drivers, we target to increase the service quality of drivers in the whole industry,” Ng said.

The Alibaba Group is the owner of the South China Morning Post