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Lyft’s latest launch is luxury

TechCrunch TechCrunch 7/07/2016 John Mannes

Over the coming months, we are going to be seeing a lot more pink mustaches in Audi, BMW, and Mercedes vehicles.

Today, Lyft is launching Lyft Premier. Users will be able to catch rides in luxury sedans and SUVs.

Highly rated drivers with access to high-end vehicles can service rides. The cost premium for Premier rides will earn drivers additional money. Lyft will also be able to take advantage of far higher margins on the new rides.

Lyft drivers are encouraged but not required to offer things like water bottles, phone chargers, and gum to riders to improve the customer experience. Lyft isn’t offering any additional services with Lyft Premier beyond the additional leg room and leather seats of the premium vehicles.

Lyft has been aggressively partnering with companies like Apple to transport employees. The company has been adding in features like seamless expensing for enterprise users. Premier falls in line nicely with what appears to be a growing strategy targeting corporate travel.

Lyft’s largest competitor, Uber, already offers luxury car service. Uber users have complained about longer wait times using UberSELECT and UberBLACK relative to traditional Pool and UberX service. Higher prices for luxury services generally result in fewer riders and drivers. This can make it more difficult to hail down a BMW on the outskirts of a city. Lyft wants to counteract this with scheduled rides. Lyft launched scheduled rides earlier this year to enable users to schedule a timely pickup 24 hours in advance.

Ironically, Uber was founded as a luxury black car-hailing service. The two companies have been swapping punches for years. In the last month Uber has launched a rewards program with Capital One, upfront fares, and ad-free Pandora. Uber has also been steadily increasing its investment in UberEATS for food delivery.

“We were first on scheduled rides, first to request rides on behalf of a third party, first to integrate tipping, and first and only to offer same-day pay for drivers,” said David Baga, Chief Business Officer for Lyft.

Premier will cost a 2X premium over traditional service and rides will be available in Los Angeles, San Francisco, and New York City.

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