Lyft, the feisty arch-rival of Uber in the ride-hailing wars, is sharpening its attack strategy to go after more market share nationally and in South Florida.
Nationwide, Lyft has seen new user activations rise 60 percent since news about sexual harassment claims, a #deleteUber movement, a trade-secret lawsuit, a Justice Department probe and executive departures hit ride-hailing titan Uber and its embattled CEO in the past couple of months.
In South Florida, its largest and fastest-growing Florida market, Lyft ridership has grown more than three-fold since 2014, said Sam Cohen, general manager of Florida for Lyft, in an interview this week. “We are the fastest-growing ride-sharing network in Florida.”
Now Lyft will be using proceeds from its $600 million fund-raising round completed last month to fuel its attack and growth initiatives. In South Florida, those will include new promotional programs, Cohen said.
San Francisco-based Lyft launched three years ago in the Miami area, a couple of weeks before Uber; it is now in 35 Florida cities, Cohen said. Earlier this week, ride-hailing legislation was signed into Florida law.
The number of Lyft drivers is in the “multiple tens of thousands” in Florida, said Cohen, who would not release the specific number of drivers or members Lyft has in South Florida or the state. “I can tell you that last year we put $49 million in the hands of drivers in Miami alone. ... It is our biggest Florida market,” Cohen said. “You can expect us to continue growing rapidly in South Florida and taking market share.”
A couple of the new programs in Florida include Express Drive, in partnership with Hertz. It enables people without a car to rent a vehicle from Hertz for $165 to $180 per week, including insurance costs, and become Lyft drivers. Through a rewards program, the more you drive, the less you pay in rental fees, Cohen said.
The Round Up and Donate program includes an app feature that allows riders to round up the cost of the ride and donate it to charity. For the program’s South Florida launch this month, donations will go to the USO in observance of Military Appreciation Month.
Lyft, which has 15 employees in South Florida, has been rolling out “Amps” in South Florida, new lighted electronic beacons that sit on Lyft drivers’ dashboards and illuminate in different colors to help customers connect with the right Lyft vehicles — especially helpful after an event when dozens of people may be waiting for ride services. “We started rolling them out a month ago and many of the drivers have them,” Cohen said. They replace the old pink mustaches placed on car grills.
The Miami office has seen more and more people giving up their cars completely and using Lyft and Lyft Line, its fast-growing car-pooling network that competes with UberPool, said Cohen, who also gave up his car.
Lyft is satisfied with the state ride-hailing legislation that was signed by Gov. Rick Scott this week, he said.
In April, Florida lawmakers sent to Scott a new law that prohibited local government from regulating the companies. Instead, the companies would need to meet statewide insurance and background check standards only. Uber and Lyft have argued that being subjected to different rules in 67 counties and hundreds of cities made it hard to do business. The new law takes effect July 1.
“With the new legislation, we now have a uniform framework and that really clarifies how to do business in the region,” Cohen said.
Nationally, Lyft may be also preparing for the eventual mainstream arrival of self-driving cars through a partnership with General Motors. A Wall Street Journal article on Monday cast doubt on ride-hailing services’ ability to meet the demand, unless they own their own fleet, a capital intensive venture. A Lyft spokesman said it will someday operate its own fleet of self-driving cars, which perhaps would transport passengers via a subscription transportation service, but didn’t say whether it would own them or its partners, such as GM, would.
Lyft is now in about 300 U.S. cities, and 100 of them have been launched this year, Cohen said. Lyft has raised $2.6 billion in venture capital and is valued at $7.5 billion, but it is still the underdog in the ride-hailing wars as Uber is in more than 600 cities globally, has raised $11.5 billion in funding and is valued at $69 billion. Neither company is profitable.
Nancy Dahlberg: @ndahlberg