New chauffeur service seeks to challenge Uber and Lyft at City Rides

BERLIN: Blacklane, a luxury transport company whose largest investor is Daimler AG

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, is launching a new service for downtown in New York on Monday, seeking to challenge the black car services of rivals Uber and Lyft LYFT. -0.38%

as the coronavirus pandemic continues to reshape the industry.

After New York City, the service is scheduled to expand to Boston, Chicago, Los Angeles, London, Paris, Berlin, Milan, Singapore, Dubai and other locations throughout the month, said the CEO and co-founder of Blacklane, Jens Wohltorf, to The Wall Street Journal. .

Blacklane aims to serve a narrow part of the ride-sharing market that targets commercial customers. It uses premium or luxury vehicles with a chauffeur and offers services such as baggage handling, passenger door opening and other amenities.

The ride-sharing industry was hit hard by the pandemic when roadblocks brought mass transit to a halt. Uber and Lyft said in February that ride bookings had halved in the fourth quarter compared to the previous year.


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The industry has adapted. Uber’s food delivery service helped it overcome the bump in its main offering. The new service in downtown Blacklane is part of a similar effort, using existing drivers who previously served only at airports to offer the same chauffeured service for trips in the cities where they operate.

While Uber and Lyft dominate the broader transportation market, the much smaller Blacklane initially sought to carve out a niche with an app offering chauffeured rides to and from airports, which according to the latest count was available in 300 cities across the world. world.

That business came to a halt when the virus blocked most air travel. So in December, Blacklane started an intercity service in the US to appeal to business travelers who are wary of taking crowded trains and short-haul flights. Travelers can book a Blacklane driver for a trip from New York to Boston for $ 399, about half the cost of a ride on Uber or Lyft on the same route.

With the new service for downtown, Blacklane hopes to attract the same business and safety-conscious audience. Combine a traditional luxury limousine service with the convenience of a booking app.

“By relying on travel and airports, we were on the front lines of the pandemic,” said Wohltorf, the company’s co-founder in 2011, saying that a renaissance in international travel was still on the distant horizon. “But the cities have returned; they are mobile. There is a good recovery in urban mobility ”.

Wohltorf and his investors were targeting a possible initial public offering next year, but have postponed the plan until 2023 at the earliest, he said.

“The longer we wait, the more valuable we will be and the more impact we will have. There is no reason to be agitated, ”he said.

Last month, Blacklane acquired a majority stake in Havn, the all-electric chauffeur service launched by Jaguar Land Rover in 2019, to help Blacklane transition to an all-electric fleet.

Write to William Boston at [email protected]

Corrections and amplifications
Uber and Lyft said in February that ride bookings had halved in the fourth quarter compared to the previous year. An earlier version of this article incorrectly implied that the statements were made in January. (Corrected on February 28, 2021.)

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It appeared in the March 1, 2021 print edition as ‘New Service to Edge Into Uber, Lyft’.


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