The emergence of ride-sharing apps such as Uber may have threatened Vietnam’s taxi market, but one of the country’s major taxi operators is fighting back.
Vinasun, which launched its own taxi-hailing app in July last year, has added a new feature to its platform, allowing people to grab ‘VIP cars’ for their specific travel needs.
The new service, called VCar, will send a modern sedan to pick up passengers at their request, replacing the traditional vehicles with the taxi top lights and the company’s brand on their doors.
Passengers used to have to directly contact the Vinasun cab dispatcher to specifically request a VIP car, but they can now do it via the app.
A screen grab of the Vinasun app that shows the Vcar option
VCar users can go to parties or business meetings with a private car, while still actually using a taxi service. This is the same business model as Uber, which launched in Vietnam in June 2014.
The VCar vehicles are new and deluxe cars used to serve customers of Vinasun’s tourism arm, Vinasun Travel, according to the cab operator.
However, the VCar fleet is still modest, currently less than 100 cars, most of which are seven-seater Toyota Fortuner’s or four-seater Camry’s, The Saigon Times Online said, citing a Vinasun representative.
Both Vinasun’s regular cabs and VCar’s are equipped with GPS-connected tablets, which display the maps and information including driver names and fares.
Vinasun did note however that due to the modest number of VIP cars, passengers may find it difficult to request one.
The Saigon Times Online said one of its reporters tried to hail a VIP car on Tuesday in District 1, Ho Chi Minh City, but there was only one four-seater VCar available, while there were dozens of traditional Vinasun cabs in the area.
The VCar service currently fetches VND17,000 (US$0.76) a km for both four- and seven-seater cars, compared to VND16,500 per km for a traditional Vinasun taxi.
By comparison, Uber and GrabCar, ride-sharing services provided by Grab, and formerly known as GrabTaxi, both offer fares lower than VND15,000 per km using seven-seater cars.
Both Uber and Grab, which allows people to hail taxis, xe om (motorbike taxis), private cars or even a goods shipper, are considered game changers in Vietnam’s taxi market.
Local taxi associations have repeatedly called on authorities to protect them against these new players, while some Vietnamese cab operators have at the same time found their own way to deal with the changes.
Besides Vinasun, Mai Linh, another major taxi brand, also has its own taxi-booking app.