Lyft teams up with Uber's top rival in China

Lyft teams up with Uber's top rival in China
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Lyft, the main U.S. competitor to ride-hailing service Uber, is teaming up with Didi Kuaidi, Uber’s primary rival in China.

The partnership announced Wednesday will link the two services, so that customers from one country can use the other service’s network.

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A consumer from China who used Didi at home will theoretically be able to hail a Lyft driver through the Didi application on their phone. The same would be true of Lyft users in China. Didi has also invested $100 million in Lyft, the companies said.

“We will be bringing further coverage to the United States and China for both communities to be able to get more rides, more easily,” said John Zimmer, Lyft’s co-founder and president, at an event with Didi president Jean Liu.

“The number of visits between the two countries totaled more than 7.8 million in 2014 and continues to experience double-digit growth,” Lyft said in a release. “The global coverage partnership will improve users’ international travel experience and boost each partner’s global market impact.”

It remains to be seen how the two firms may influence each other’s products. Liu said the companies were considering adding a feature where, if a Lyft user called a car on Didi while in China, they would receive a driver who spoke English.

Liu, in her remarks, appeared to draw an implicit contrast between the new partners and the hard-charging Uber, which has at times been accused of being unfriendly to workers and aggressive towards authorities in local communities in which it operates.

“Lyft and Didi share [a] very similar philosophy, which is care for community, very friendly to drivers and everyone and focused on true innovation,” she said.

The move, which was first reported by the Wall Street Journal, is a shot against Uber’s bow.

Uber has ambitious plans in China. At a conference earlier this month, CEO Travis Kalanick said that the company was aiming to expand to 100 Chinese cities within the year.

Didi is its primary competition. In late August, Uber announced that its Chinese subsidiary had raised over $1 billion from investors. Didi went public with its own major fundraising haul — $3 billion in total over two rounds — earlier this month.

Lyft, meanwhile, has been looking to fight back against the rapidly-expanding Uber. The partnership with Didi gives it a toehold in China.

The partnership between Lyft and Didi is not entirely unexpected. BuzzFeed News reported earlier this year that he ride-hailing apps were weighing whether to create a strategic alliance to battle the dominant Uber.

Zimmer would not comment on whether Lyft was exploring partnerships in other countries.