Whether it's an airline (United) or a ridesharing service (Didi and Uber), a corporate reputation can be pummeled in a social media minute. Didi executives claim they are now emphasizing safety as the number one priority and making growth secondary. At least they are saying the right things.
Downloads of Chinese ride-hailing app Didi Chuxing have plummeted after a national outcry erupted over the alleged murder of a passenger by one of its drivers, according to data from research firm App Annie.
Daily-download data shows users have begun trying out rival services since the second death of a Didi passenger in three months, which ignited a furore as regulators, media and users accused Asia’s most valuable startup of favoring growth over safety. Users began publicly deleting the app after a woman was allegedly killed by a driver on its Hitch car-pooling service.
Didi went from China’s ninth-most downloaded Apple iOS app on Aug. 20 last week to 61st as of Wednesday, according to App Annie. That’s its worst showing since May, when a prior death rocked the service. Didi’s placing in the travel segment slipped from first to fourth and is now behind two smaller competitors — Dida Pinche and Caocao — as well as online booking service Ctrip.com.
The data covers only iPhones in a country where the vast majority of people rely on Android devices, and reflects new downloads rather than the current state of installed apps. But it represents a potential threat to Didi as it attempts to become a global transport giant after winning a costly battle at home against Uber Technologies Inc.
Rather than turn users off ride-hailing entirely, the deaths appear to have driven downloads for rivals to rarely seen highs. Closest competitor Dida Pinche saw its ranking soar to 9th from just 124th on Aug. 20, while third-ranked Caocao previously wasn’t even in the top 200. Smaller services also saw downloads rise but not to similar levels.
Chief Executive Officer Cheng Wei and President Jean Liu issued a public letter of apology this week, pledging to prioritize safety and introduce new measures designed to protect passengers. Didi could thus regain its credibility in the long run, Gartner research director Sandy Shen said.
“If Didi is really sincere and takes good actions to make sure they protect passenger safety and privacy, I think over time people will probably regain confidence and use Didi because right now it’s the biggest player,” she said. “But it will take a while.”
©2018 Bloomberg L.P.
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Photo credit: Downloads of the Didi app have declined rapidly after a driver allegedly murdered a passenger. Bloomberg