Chinese chauffeur-driven ride-hailing platform Caocao launches trial service in Paris as rivalry heats up at home

Jane Zhang

The chauffeur-driven ride-hailing platform of Chinese carmaker Zhejiang Geely kicked off a trial service in Paris on Thursday, its first move into overseas markets as competition at home intensifies.

Caocao Zhuanche said in a post on the company’s official WeChat account that it will use The Electric Taxi, a battery-powered vehicle produced by Geely subsidiary London Electric Vehicle Company, to offer services in Paris. Drivers will be required to hold the French licence for chauffeur driven cars, known as VTC, or Voiture de Tourisme avec Chauffeur, and will receive training on security and etiquette.

Each taxi will have umbrellas, data cables and mobile phone holders for use by passengers.

Ride-hailing is the fastest-growing segment of the online mobility services market. In France, user penetration for ride-hailing services is forecast to be 12.3 per cent this year, growing to 16.2 per cent by 2023 when the market will be worth US$2.95 billion, according to market research firm Statista.

Globally, most of the revenue in the ride-hailing industry is generated in China, Statista said, adding that amid the intensely competitive and saturated domestic market, many Chinese companies are eyeing international expansion for future growth.

Didi Chuxing, which became the country’s dominant ride-hailing platform after it acquired Uber China in 2016, has expanded aggressively in the international market.

In January 2018, Didi acquired Brazil's ride-hailing leader 99, followed two months later by the launch of ride-hailing services in Mexico. It entered Australia and then Japan via a joint venture with SoftBank, all in the same year. In addition to these markets, Didi currently operates services in Chile, Columbia, and Costa Rica.

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Meanwhile, Caocao and rival chauffeur service Shouqi Yueche, which employ their own drivers under a B2C (business to customer) model, have tried to catch up with Didi’s overseas expansion.

Shouqi Yueche, which launched its international businesses in August 2017, now covers 1,500 cities in 130 countries, the company’s chief marketing officer Hu Xulei said in a post on the company’s official WeChat account.

Caocao sent a team to Paris last August to conduct market research before launching the trial service there. The company said it will expand its electric car service to more countries in future after doing more research on the location of charging stations and local policies in the target countries.

Launched in 2015, Caocao received a licence in February 2017 to provide ride-hailing services using electric cars, the first of its kind in China. It currently operates in over 30 cities across China including Hangzhou, Chengdu, Nanjing, Guangzhou and Xian, with more than 30,000 new energy cars in use.

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