China's Geely to join ride-hailing fray with high-end service

Chairman of Zhejiang Geely Holding Group Li Shufu (L) addresses the media as the company makes its Detroit debut with the MR7171A five-passenger sedan during the press preview of the North American International Auto Show in Detroit, Michigan January 10, 2006. REUTERS/Rebecca Cook/Files

BEIJING (Reuters) - China’s Geely Holding Group plans to launch a high-end car rental and ride-hailing app, a spokesman said on Wednesday, entering a business hotly contested by China’s Didi Kuaidi and U.S. rival Uber Technologies Inc.

Geely Holding, owner of automaker Geely Automobile Holdings, has established a subsidiary to develop the service called Caocao, spokesman Victor Yang told Reuters. He declined to say how much Geely would invest in the service.

Caocao aims to be more upmarket than Uber, offering both rides and rental cars with a variety of add-on services, and will launch only in selected cities, Yang said.

“We can provide driver, we can provide a translator, we can provide a body guard if you need,” he said.

Caocao will launch Geely into a market in which Didi Kuaidi, backed by Chinese tech behemoths Tencent Holdings Ltd and Alibaba Group Holding Ltd, and Uber have each burned through more than $1 billion, mostly in subsidized discounts to lure customers.

The name Caocao comes from a Chinese idiom that roughly translates as “speak of the devil”. The service will also incorporate electric vehicles, Yang said.

State-owned Xinhua news agency first reported on Wednesday that Geely would launch an app, although it did not provide full details on the service.

Editing by Mark Potter