As customers give Uber hell over a steady stream of recent scandals, its distant second in the American ride-hailing market, Lyft, has been the beneficiary of tremendous good will, ride-hail dollars, and app downloads. The draw? It's not Uber.
Remember in January, when Uber appeared to encourage strikebreaking, sending cars to New York's JFK airport when taxi cab drivers refused to do so in protest of President Trump's first travel ban? Lyft capitalized on the moment and pledged to donate $1 million to the ACLU. Soon, it surpassed Uber in app store downloads. Uber's CEO, Travis Kalanick, had signed up to work with Trump — he was complicit, after all. He's now left that advisory position, but you know who still works closely with the president? Major Lyft investor Peter Thiel.
Now Lyft is continuing its "good guy" schtick and it's getting ridiculous, as in an interview with Time magazine. “We’re woke," declares Lyft president John Zimmer. "Our community is woke, and the U.S. population is woke."
Lyft does have a reputation as friendly and inviting, and perhaps does perpetuate its own, kinder culture. “In our minds, there’s been a contrast in the values, there’s been a contrast in the type of business we’re building,” Zimmer tells the magazine. “And so we weren’t shocked that there was a contrast. There’s been that contrast.”
From early days, Uber and Lyft positioned themselves as different services, even though they provide essentially the same function for customers. Lyft, founded in 2012, was all fist bumps and fluffy pink mustaches, advertising ride-sharing as a way to build community and encouraging drivers to invite riders to sit in the front seat. Uber, launched in 2009, was all black-cars and cool factor, advertising the promise that everyone deserves their own private driver, the type of employee with whom one has little obligation to chitchat.
Sure, in 2012, when furry pink mustaches roamed San Francisco streets on the front of cars, they were a clever advertisement for ride-hailing in general, which needed advertising and explaining at the time. Your driver would give you a fist bump, a move that would now be reasonably interpreted as assault. Lyft was friendly, but because it had to be — people didn't just get into strangers cars.
Today, Lyft isn't "you friend with a car," and it never really was. It's a corporation that's cynically promoting itself as good because it's less awful than the competition. With Uber, Lyft makes up just another duopoly, man. That's probably why Zimmer tells Time he's done directly targeting Uber, deriding it as "corporate," in ads like this one below.
No, Lyft won't even be playing the "We're number 2!" Hertz campaign card, the "we try harder" and that's better approach. Lyft just wants to be number one, and Zimmer says as much to Time. “We’re not the nice guys,” Zimmer told the publication. “We’re a better boyfriend.”
Uhhh okay, you can drive me home, but please don't touch me.