Meituan expands aggregated ride-hailing service to 15 additional cities

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Lifestyle services super app Meituan has expanded its aggregated ride-hailing services to an additional 15 cities around China, intensifying competition in the sector and taking direct aim at Didi.

The company initially launched the service, which allows users to access vehicles from several ride-hailing platforms within Meituan’s app, in Nanjing and Shanghai in late April. Users are given the choice of hailing rides using Shouqi Limousine & Chauffeur, Caocao Chuxing, and Shenzhou, as well as its own Meituan Dache. Market leader Didi has not been included in the service.

Meituan has now expanded the scope of the platform to an additional 15 cities, including the eastern cities of Suzhou, Hangzhou, and Ningbo, as well as Xi’an, Chengdu, Wuhan, and Shenzhen.

Meituan isn’t the first platform that allows users to book trips from multiple ride-hailing companies. The firm joins Chinese map apps Autonavi and Baidu Map in offering the service.

Meituan is taking a more cautious approach to improving its customer experience amid increased regulation of the ride-hailing sector and a 57% increase in its operating losses in the fourth quarter of 2018. Aggregating rides allows the company to offer additional functionality without a significant increase in costs.

Teaming up with the likes of Shouqi and Shenzhou also allows Meituan to take on Didi, which currently commands the ride-hailing market in China. Didi has seen increased scrutiny over the past year following two high profile murders of passengers by their drivers using the company’s carpooling service Hitch.

Since then, several smaller players have set up shop, hoping to take a share of the market. Most recently, electric vehicle (EV) maker Xpeng, also known as Xiaopeng, began operating a ride-hailing pilot in the southern Chinese city of Guangzhou. Unlike other companies, the EV manufacturer will employ all of its drivers.

Several automakers are looking to offer similar services. In December Mercedes Benz and Volkswagen partnered on a high-end ride-hailing service in Shanghai, while Daimler and Geely set up a joint venture in the eastern Chinese city of Hangzhou last week, focusing on ride-hailing and car rental services. Tech giants Tencent and Alibaba also seek to gain a share of the market, setting up a RMB 10 billion (around $1.5 billion) mobility venture with state-owned automaker Changan in Nanjing.