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Uber's Lion City Rentals rebrands to also attract casual drivers

LION City Rentals (LCR), the car rental subsidiary of Uber, is transforming its business to serve casual drivers in addition to its private-hire leasing business.

“We want to be the preferred car rental company in Singapore,” said Pascal Ly, newly-appointed general manager of LCR, on Thursday.

In a press briefing, Mr Ly announced that LCR wants to “address a broader audience” as part of its ongoing brand refresh. Casual drivers could include couples on a getaway or people looking to move bulky items, he said.

To attract new drivers, LCR is banking on low upfront charges, more flexible car rental terms, rebates and a new loyalty scheme for top hirers, amongst other incentives.

When asked by The Business Times how LCR’s experience with private-hire car drivers would help it appeal to casual drivers, Mr Ly pointed to ensuring a seamless car rental experience.

LCR was founded in 2015 as a private-hire car fleet owner to supply cars to Uber drivers. Today, it remains fully-owned by Uber - despite Grab’s buyout of Uber’s South-east Asian operations in March - and supplies cars to Grab drivers.

Mr Ly said: “We are still a subsidiary of Uber but an independent entity in terms of operations and strategic decisions. We have our own voice.”

When asked what Go-Jek’s impending entry into Singapore would mean for LCR, Mr Ly replied that there would be a “market uplift” with “people looking for cars”.

He said: “We want these people to be thinking of LCR. Whichever platform they drive with is not for us to dictate.”

LCR has no plans to enter into deals with any ridehailing platforms as of now, said Mr Ly.

He added that a buyout of LCR would depend on market dynamics, and because LCR is still owned by Uber, it would have “no authority to say yes or no” to a potential acquirer.

Uber has been mandated to sell vehicles of LCR to any potential competitor of Grab that makes a reasonable offer, or to Grab but only with the approval of the Competition and Consumer Commission of Singapore (CCCS), in its rulings on the Grab-Uber merger released last month.

LCR’s fleet size - which used to be in the tens of thousands - is now in the “thousands”, said Mr Ly, who acknowledged that the company’s fleet of vehicles has shrunk since the Grab-Uber merger. However, the number of extensions by private-hire car drivers of their car rental contracts has grown, in fact doubling in the third quarter this year, Mr Ly noted.

On LCR’s new business strategy to move beyond ridehailing and target casual drivers, he said: “We’re not in a desperate situation. We’re not sad that Grab didn’t buy us. This is us taking care of ourselves; it’s not a last resort.”