Didi Chuxing, the Chinese ride-hail behemoth, plans to expand to Mexico next year, according to Reuters. It would be the company’s first international expansion and could signal a new phase of competition with Uber, which sold its Chinese business to Didi in 2016 after a lengthy and expensive battle.
Didi is the second-most valued, privately owned firm in the world after Uber. Its decision to begin recruiting drivers and offering rides in Mexico will surely be seen as shot across Uber’s bow at a time when the company has been seen reeling from a series of self-inflicted scandals.
According to Reuters, Didi has already laid the groundwork for a Mexico launch:
About a month ago, Didi met with ProMexico, a government trade and investment body, to discuss opportunities in the country, according to a Mexican official, who declined to provide further details about the conversations.
Earlier this year, Didi opened an R&D center in Mountain View, California, that’s focused on hiring (and probably poaching) top engineering talent to work on artificial intelligence and self-driving car technology.
Didi has had a very interesting couple years, to say the least. The company first crossed many peoples’ radars when Apple announced it had invested an eye-popping $1 billion in the ride-hail service. At the time, Didi was locked in an intense competition with Uber for China’s rapidly growing ride-hail market.
Eventually the battle grew too costly for Uber, which was reportedly spending $1 billion a year in China. In August, then-Uber CEO Travis Kalanick announced his plan to sell his Chinese business to Uber for a 17.7 percent stake in Didi and a seat on the company’s board. In exchange, Didi invested $1 billion in Uber.
Didi has also invested in many of Uber’s rivals, including Lyft, Brazil’s 99, India’s Ola, Singapore-headquartered Grab, Estonia’s Taxify, and Careem in the Middle East.
Didi does insane amounts of business in China, so it’s unsurprising that the firm would look to expand its reach. As of October 2016, Didi said it was performing 25 million rides a day. In addition to private cars, Didi also offers bike-sharing, bus rentals, and a carpooling service called Hitch.