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Ride-hailing apps are an essential part of many white-collar commuters' daily lives in China's big cities, especially at rush hour. Photo: Simon Song

China’s top car-hailing app Didi Kuaidi rebrands itself with new logo, name in bid to shake off ‘illegal taxi service’ stigma amid crackdown

Didi Chuxing

Didi Kuaidi, China’s market-leading car-hailing competitor to Uber Technologies, launched its new logo this week as it continues on its project of becoming the world’s largest one-stop mobile transportation network, it said.

The news comes in the same week the company announced it was close to raising about US$3 billion from investors, US$1 billion more than its initial target, suggesting investors remain fired up by its prospects as it continues to try and tamp down a backlash from established taxi companies amid a government crackdown.
Rival Uber, which said this weeks it plans to expand to 100 Chinese cities over the next year, claims to have raised about US$1.2 billion in new financing.

Didi Kuaidi's new logo uses a capitalised “D”, rendered in a way that resembles a smiling face to present a friendlier image and underscore its goal of making journeys more efficient, accessible and comfortable, it said in a statement Wednesday.

READ MORE: Didi Kuaidi invests in regional player GrabTaxi to help stymie Uber’s expansion plans in Asia

The company will also change the name of its main app from Didi Dache to Didi Chuxing, while replacing the old version of the app with a newer one, it said.

As chuxing means “commute” in Putonghua, whereas dache means “catch a cab,” the softer, more generic name signifies the company’s growing portfolio as it expands into others services including premium car-hailing, carpooling and bus sharing in up to 360 cities in China, according to the statement.
It also suggests an attempt to distance itself from a reputation such apps have built up over the last year for using drivers who operate illicitly and without the correct permits, spurring safety concerns for passengers. The company has been partnering with authorities in a few Chinese cities recently to cement its legal status.
Rival Uber has been banned in several major cities including New Delhi after some high-profile cases of female passengers being molested, while Beijing declared the Chinese company's Didi Kuaiche and Didi Zhuanche services illegal in June.

The explosive growth of such apps has spurred a nationwide backlash from taxi companies in China, as well as office raids by authorities and police stings on drivers working for the competing apps in several key cities this year.

One Didi Kuaidi driver in Guangzhou, in southern Guangdong province, claims to have been handed a record 100,000 yuan (US$15,735) fine this month for engaging in illegal transport activities and reaping illicit profits.
This happened in the same week that similar services by the competing apps were  criminalised in the neighbouring city of Shenzhen.

A handful of government ministries summoned representatives of the leading apps, including Uber and China's Ucar, to a meeting earlier in the summer and ordered them to comply with local laws within a given deadline.

Didi Kuaidi’s logo change and rebranding follows a similar gesture by Google last week, which yet again redefined its famous logo as it prepares to become a part of a new holding company called Alphabet as the company continues to broaden its portfolio. 

Established cabbies in France and China have been among the most vocal in their opposition to car-hailing apps, with a number of mainland cities and Hong Kong seeing angry taxi drivers organise “go-slow” campaigns. Some drivers working for the apps have been attacked and their vehicles damaged as they are viewed as an unfair threat to established players' business. 

Police raided Uber’s offices in Sichuan’s Chengdu and Guangzhou in May.

Didi Kuaidi’s latest round of financing was led by new investors China Investment Corp, Capital International Private Equity Fund, and Ping An Ventures, among others. Existing investors Alibaba Group, Tencent Holdings, Temaske and Coatue Management also participated.

Didi Kuaidi is the result of a merger in February of China's two largest taxi-hailing firms - Didi Dache and Kuaidi Dache - which were backed, respectively, by two of China's biggest internet giants: social and gaming behemoth Tencent and e-commerce king Alibaba. The combined entity was at the time valued at around US$6 billion.