Daimler starts Mercedes ride service in China holder’s hometown

FRANKFURT • Daimler AG and Zhejiang Geely Holding Group Co Ltd will launch their planned ride-hailing joint venture (JV) in the Chinese company’s hometown of Hangzhou this month, deepening collaboration between the maker of Mercedes-Benz luxury cars and its largest shareholder.

The service, dubbed StarRides, will start with a fleet of 100 vehicles, including Mercedes-Benz S-Class, E-Class and V-Class models, Daimler said yesterday in a statement. It will roll out in other cities in China next year.

“Premium ride-hailing is an essential element in our mobility ecosystem,” Joerg Lamparter, board member at Daimler’s mobility division, said in the statement.

Daimler and Geely announced plans to forge a 50-50 JV for the ride-hailing business in the world’s largest auto market roughly a year ago, months after the Chinese automaker owned by billionaire Li Shufu became the storied German manufacturer’s biggest investor by acquiring a 9.7% stake. The two have since followed up with an agreement to turn Daimler’s Smart small-car division into an all-electric brand based in China.

Daimler’s long-standing Chinese partner BAIC Motor Corp bought a 5% stake in the German company earlier this year to cement ties. The two companies’ local JV, which produces MercedesBenz cars near Beijing, is critically important for both. China is a key source of sales and profits for Mercedes-Benz. BAIC’s domestic brand and its venture with Hyundai Motor Co Ltd have been struggling recently amid a broader China auto market decline.

In February, Daimler and BMW AG announced they would pour more than €1 billion (RM4.6 billion) into joint car-sharing and ride-hailing businesses initially focused on the European Market. — Bloomberg