Chinese ride-hailing service Didi Chuxing has entered discussions with the world’s largest automaker for the development and management of a fleet of bespoke smart cars.
Didi and Volkswagen are expected to enter an agreement early next month, in a move which will see the German auto giant manage a fleet of around 100,000 new vehicles, as well as supply two thirds of units.
The two companies plan to design and manufacture their own specialist vehicles in future as well as eventually create bespoke autonomous vehicles for Didi’s fleet, according to an anonymous senior executive from Volkswagen who spoke to Reuters.
These bespoke vehicles are likely to be smaller than the standard four-seater vehicle, given that as many as 80% of Didi customers ride alone, and also employ smaller, less-powerful engines that are better suited to use in dense urban areas.
Ride-hailing services such as Didi Chuxing have surged in popularity amongst tech-savvy consumers in China’s urban centres – a development which could reduce personal vehicle ownership amongst the emerging middle-class and have adverse implications for automakers.
“To succeed as a car company in this new ecosystem, we need to know who our customer is, what their journey is and what our strategy should be” said the Volkswagen exec.