Chinese ride-hailing giant Didi Chuxing is partnering with automaker BYD to produce customized EVs for its transport business, people familiar with the matter told Bloomberg and Reuters.
The two companies have already produced a test batch of the customized electric car, the people said, asking not to be identified because the details are private. The number of cars that will be produced is still to be determined as they undergo trials, one of the people said.
Representatives from Didi and BYD declined to comment. Reuters reported the partnership earlier Monday.
Didi flagged as early as 2018 its intention to team up with automakers to produce customized EVs for its ride-hailing service, which dominates in China and counts Uber Technologies as an investor. More than 969,000 EVs have registered with its passenger-transport service, representing around one-third of total EV owners nationwide, a white paper published by the company in April showed.
Didi plans to release the first batch of the customized EVs to fleet partners nationwide by the end of 2020, another person familiar with the matter said.
Making and using its own cars would allow Didi to better manage the quality of vehicles under its offering. It would also afford it greater control over its fleet of drivers. Currently, people can rent a car from a third-party leasing company and then use that car to drive for Didi. By owning and managing the cars itself, Didi can keep a better tab on drivers as well.
The move may also prepare Didi for the shift toward self-driving vehicles at some point down the road, when it will likely need to take complete control over its fleet.
BYD, one of China’s biggest and most established EV players, sold 451,000 cars last year. Warren Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway Inc. is the largest shareholder in the Hong Kong-traded stock, with a 24.6 percent stake. The billionaire investor took a bet on BYD two years before Tesla Inc. listed in New York.