Photographer: Mike Coppola

China's Didi Joins Forces With Lyft in U.S. To Thwart Uber

  • Chinese users can use in-app translation and Alipay, WeChat
  • Lyft's users may be able to hail Didi cabs later this year

Users of China’s largest ride-hailing service visiting the U.S. can now call up cars courtesy of Lyft Inc., as the two startups strengthen an alliance intended to curtail Uber Technologies Inc.’s rapid global expansion.

Starting this week, any of Didi Kuaidi’s almost 300 million customers will be able to use the Chinese company’s app in the U.S. to access Lyft’s pool of private cars, they said in an e-mailed statement. In-app translation will help smooth language wrinkles, and they can pay via Chinese services Alipay and WeChat.

The reverse may soon become a reality. As early as this quarter, Lyft users may be able to use their apps to hail a taxi when in China, according to the statement. Didi and its San Francisco-based partner have been integrating services which span hundreds of cities across both countries and have now rolled out a trial version for the U.S.

“Just like any Internet product, the launch is on a phased schedule. Going forward, the opportunities are wide open,” Li Zijian, Didi’s senior director of international strategy, said by phone. “Didi will be offering its private cars and Lyft will be offering its equivalent to private cars.”

America is a popular destination for Chinese tourists, the most numerous on the planet. About 5 million people travel between the two countries every year, according to tourism bureau data that Didi cited.

First Fruit of Alliance

Lyft and Didi are testing what amounts to the first major initiative from a global push to fight Uber. The two have teamed with Southeast Asia’s Grab and India’s Ola. Didi itself is stockpiling cash for the battle ahead. China’s largest ride-hailing service raised the target on its latest round of funding to more than $1.5 billion, which could value the company at more than $20 billion, a person familiar with the matter has said.

Both Didi and Lyft will review their partnership on a regular basis to work out financial sharing arrangements and gauge its success.

“We’ve agreed to review it every few months and it’d be fair to say that by year’s end, we’ll have a review of the product, of the experience and of the business,” Li said.

Didi expects to be able to serve about 30 million riders daily by the year’s end. It has a wider range of services than its partners - customers can hail taxis, car-pool with drivers and even hop on buses. Its partner, Lyft, debuted car-pooling for the Bay Area in March.

“Going forward we have the Lyft Line and the Didi Hitch and other types like taxis” to offer, Li said.

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