Yesterday, TechCrunch reported that Lyft would introduce the service with white Ford Explorer SUVs in San Francisco, which will serve as a trial market for the new service. Today Lyft confirmed that it is working on such a service and that it is seeking community members to test it out, which they can sign up to do through a landing page for early access.
With the new Lyft service, the company is seeking to “modernize the premium transportation experience,” president John Zimmer told me in a phone interview. While the company is still keeping a lid on many details for now, it’s hoping to get people to try it out before a more formal launch.
The new service will provide passengers with a little more choice in what kind of ride they’d like to be picked up in. Until now, due to its drivers’ “bring your own car” policy, you never really knew what you were going to get when requesting a ride.
Passengers who are riding with more than two or three other people, or those who are traveling with cargo (like a bike, for instance), will benefit from the ability to order a car and knowing there will be room.
“Our focus has always been creating special experiences and also having the most affordable transportation options in the market,” Zimmer said. With that in mind, the company plans to introduce a service with SUVs but keep it priced below the competing UberBLACK offering.
The launch could also help improve margins a bit at Lyft, especially as the company has aggressively slashed fares for its existing service in an apparent price war with Uber. After cutting fares 20 percent earlier in the month, Lyft lowered them another 10 percent last week.
Lyft plans to release more details about the service next week, and will launch it more broadly in San Francisco in the coming weeks.
The company has raised a total of $330 million since being founded as Zimride in 2007, including a $250 million round of funding from new investors that include hedge fund Coatue Management, Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba, and Daniel Loeb’s Third Point, as well as existing investors Andreessen Horowitz, Founders Fund, and Mayfield Ventures.
The company now has coverage in 60 cities through the U.S., after expanding to 24 new markets last week.