Didi Kuaidi, China’s top taxi-hailing app, launches personal chauffeur service
China’s market leading car- and taxi -hailing app Didi Kuaidi launched its new business Didi Chauffeur in Beijing on Tuesday, just days after authorities in Shanghai cracked down on unlicensed private car services.
A similar ban was imposed on them last month in the Chinese capital.
The company, which attracted US$2 billion in funding earlier this month, said Didi Chauffeur is part of its strategy to build a one-stop transportation platform.
It will help car owners find a qualified driver to chauffeur them around in their own vehicle when they are in no condition to drive, for example due to imbibing alcohol or being sick. They will be charged a fixed fee for the first 10 kilometres, the company said.
“We have already registered over 800,000 drivers for the service in less than two months,” said Didi Kuaidi CEO Cheng Wei. “We’ve trained 160,000 of them to be chauffeurs in order to provide the best service.”
The service can be accessed through the respective apps of Didi Dache and Kuaidi Dache, which merged earlier this year to form Didi Kuaidi.
It can also be connected to via Didi Dache's official account on WeChat, a hugely popular mobile messaging app on the Chinese mainland run by Chinese internet service portal giant Tencent.
The service is now available in at least 10 cities including Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou, Shenzhen, Hangzhou in east China and Xi'an in north China. The company said the scheme may be extended to 15 cities next month.
Cheng rushed to attend the launch in the Chinese capital after meeting with authorities in Shanghai to discuss how they plan to deal with private car services, he said, without elaborating.
On Friday, Shanghai authorities detained private car owners at the city’s two international airports – in the districts of Hongqiao and Pudong – for using car-hailing apps like Didi and San Francisco-based Uber to find customers.
Owners of private cars who do not own licenses to operate car-rental services were targeted, Sun Jianping, director of the Shanghai Municipal Transportation Commission, told the state-run Xinhua news agency.
He said the move did not represent a blanket crackdown on private car hailing services, which have courted controversy this year.
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Taxi drivers in over 20 Chinese cities have protested against car-hailing apps for several years, he added.
Didi Kuaidi claims that is private car hailing service only hires drivers from companies with car-rental licenses.
“We have struggled to survive in an extremely inhospitable environment recently. It's been like walking on a mountain of knives, or swimming in an ocean of fire,” Cheng said.
“Despite this, within three years Didi Kuaidi has managed to grow into a company with a valuation of US$15 billion,” he added.
Over 1,000 drivers have been punished by Beijing’s traffic police since May for running car-rental businesses without the appropriate licenses, Cheng said, quoting recent media reports.
“It takes time to adapt to a new business," he said. "All we want is to give Chinese people more options when they travel, with the most convenience."
Didi Kuaidi claims to serve 200 million people in over 300 Chinese cities through its taxi-hailing, premium-car, carpooling and bus-sharing services.