China Ride-Hailing App to Give Away $161 Million in Free Rides

Updated on

Things are about to get more competitive in China’s ride-sharing market, after Didi Kuaidi, the company resulting from the merger of the country’s two largest taxi-hailing app operators, said it will give away 1 billion yuan ($161 million) of free rides.

Starting May 25, commuters in 12 Chinese cities will enjoy free rides from its chauffeur service every Monday for a month, according to Didi Kuaidi. The company, backed by Alibaba Group Holding Ltd. and Tencent Holdings Ltd., is expanding into chauffeur services after winning an estimated 99 percent of the taxi-hailing market share.

“Three years from now, our goal is to allow everyone to hail a taxi or get a ride within three minutes and to serve 30 million people per day,” Cheng Wei, chief executive officer of Didi Kuaidi, said in a statement. The company hopes to meet the demand by supplying more cars in a more flexible way, it said in the statement.

China’s car-hailing industry is dominated by Didi and Kuaidi -- both apps started out as Uber clones -- and now account for a combined 78 percent of ride bookings, with Uber Technologies Inc. a distant third at 11 percent, according to Analysys estimates. There were 172 million mobile app ride-booking accounts as of the end of last year.

Didi Kuaidi aims to create the largest “one-stop transportation platform” in the world, the company said. The goal is to cover commuting needs from hailing taxis through mobile apps, to carpooling and booking premium cars with chauffeurs, it said.

Huang Xue, a Beijing-based spokeswoman for Uber, didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment sent by text message.