Chinese ride-sharing app Ucar slams Uber's safety record with celebrity endorsed campaign

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 25 June, 2015, 6:05pm
UPDATED : Tuesday, 23 January, 2018, 5:01pm

Ucar, a Chinese car-hailing app launched by China Auto Rental (CAR Inc), China's leading car rental site, is trying to build its brand quickly in its home market by hinting at how rival Uber is illegal and potentially unsafe for passengers.

Featuring the slogan “Beat U”, Ucar released a series of advertising posters on its official account on China’s popular Weibo microblogging site on Thursday. 

Designed to show the Chinese app as a prudent alternative, they all feature Chinese celebrities holding up signboards bearing the words “No U”. 

The stars outline their grievances against illegal cabs in the text below. Their uniformly cold expressions fill in the rest. 

As of 4pm, the nine posters, which variously include an athlete, police officer and venture capitalist, had attracted over 5,000 comments, and been re-tweeted more than 14,500 times.

Ucar refrained from explicitly naming the San Francisco-based company in the digital ads but did make reference to an entity called “Wubo”, which has the same pronunciation in Putonghua as Uber. 

Adding the English translation of these two Chinese characters, it continued: “Black uncle, please stop your illegal car-hailing services.”

China Auto Rental did not immediately respond to the South China Daily Post’s request for a comment.

Uber claims its drivers make almost one million trips a day in China. But such growth has triggered a backlash from the government and regular taxi drivers, who have staged protests across the country against such car-hailing apps, including in Hong Kong.

Mindful of the potential for unrest, China recently enacted a law that bans private cars from offering rides through apps, but enforcement is patchy and demand for the services continues to grow.

READ MORE: Uber losing lustre in China as drivers and passengers complain about incentives and authorities get tough

This is just the latest example of Chinese technology companies resorting to personal attacks against overseas rivals.

In April, LeTV launched a campaign against Apple to promote its new smartphone. Jia Yueting, who founded the online entertainment company, posted an image on Weibo showing Hitler wearing an Apple logo in place of a swastika.

But Ucar’s campaign may ultimately prove a misfire, as many Chinese internet users felt compelled to leave comments on the company’s blog describing the move as shameful.

“It’s disgusting. I’m going to uninstall the Shenzhou software.” said one post by Lin Huanjian. China Auto Rental's name in Putonghua is Shenzhou Zuche.

“Your disgusting and stupid advertisement only helps to promote Uber.” said another by Vivian Zhang.