China's largest mobile car-sharing service, Yongche.com, wants to compete with U.S. market leader Uber Technologies by offering Mandarin-speaking drivers in two U.S. cities.
The Chinese ride-sharing app is looking to launch its service in San Francisco and New York, expanding its current network of 57 cities in China and Hong Kong, reported Bloomberg. To better compete with Uber and differentiate its service, Yonche will provide drivers who can speak Mandarin so Chinese travelers to the two U.S. cities won't need to rely on language guidebooks to get to their destination.
"Most Chinese don't speak English and find it difficult to communicate with foreign drivers after they land in another country," Herman Zhou, founder and CEO of Yongche told Bloomberg in an interview in Beijing. "We will have Chinese-speaking drivers in the U.S. and other places to make it seamless and stress-free."
With Chinese travelers making 98 million trips overseas last year, up 18 percent from the previous year, Zhou is confident that his company will be valued as much as Uber's US$17 billion--based on its latest round of funds--in two years.
Yongche currently has 2 million active users and 50,000 registered cars in 57 cities across China and Hong Kong, and plans to expand this network to 150 cities by 2015 and grow its user base by 10 times.
According to Zhou, the company will add Los Angeles and Boston to its U.S. coverage, and is targeting to launch its service in Singapore, Taipei, Tokyo, London, and Frankfurt. These are cities often visited by Chinese travelers, he said.
"We want to prove to the world that the competition between Uber and Yongche.com isn't that of a global and local company, but a match-up of two different business models. They can come to China, we can also expand and compete with them in the U.S.," he noted.
Uber in February launched its service in China via a partnership with car rental company Chenghuan in Shanghai. A spokesperson then said this was not an exclusive deal and Uber was looking to establish several partners in the country, like it does it other cities.
The U.S. car-service app earlier this month faced protests in Europe where traditional cab drivers said their client base was being eroded by an increase in unlicensed drivers and chauffeur services. Uber was a main target of complaints due to its popularity, but the cabbies were up in arms over such car services bypassing strict regulators that traditional drivers like them faced as licensed drivers.
"Uber is deliberately not respecting regulations and on top of that has significant financial means," said Serge Metz, chief executive of France's Taxi G7.