As Uber stumbled from a series of self-inflicted scandals, Lyft’s business continues to grow. Bloomberg reported today that Lyft’s gross bookings, the revenue earned by its drivers, grew by about 25 percent to $1 billion in the second quarter from $800 million in the previous period. That’s a faster growth rate than Uber, which expects its gross bookings to increase in the “mid-teens” for this quarter, Bloomberg said.
The news that Lyft’s business is picking up comes on the heels of two other major announcements by the ride-hail company. Earlier this month, Lyft said it was now providing over 1 million rides per day. And last week, the company announced that it would go beyond partnering with other companies on autonomous driving, and start building some of the technology itself.
Lyft sources also told Bloomberg that the company has done about as many rides in the first half of 2017 as it did in all of 2016. But before Lyft gets too cocky about its upward trajectory, it’s worth putting some of this growth in some context.
There’s no doubt that Uber’s misfortunes have been a blessing for Lyft, but the company is still a fraction of the size of Uber. Earlier this month, Uber announced its own milestone of reaching 5 billion rides cumulatively. No matter how you shake it, Uber is just way bigger than Lyft, and that’s reflected in its dominating grip on the ride-hailing marketshare (77 percent as of May) and its status as a global company. (Lyft only operates in the US).
The various scandals, declining customer satisfaction, and Travis Kalanick’s forced departure as CEO don’t seem to be undermining Uber’s overall business. (And drivers often tune out the unending drama.) But Lyft is clearly trying to capitalize on the situation.
But how long will this last? In the wake of the scandals that cost it much of its top leadership, Uber is making a lot of changes to appease disgruntled drivers, such as adding an in-app tipping option. Lyft has offered tipping since 2012, but with Uber now jumping on the bandwagon, not much remains to differentiate one app from the other. In surveys, drivers often say they like driving for Lyft better because of tipping and higher earnings. That will likely start evening out.
The question is: how will Uber react to reports of Lyft’s improved standings? Under Kalanick’s hyper-competitive and unethical rein, Uber did a lot of bad stuff to undermine Lyft. It armed teams of independent contractors with burner phones and credit cards to book and cancel Lyft rides, in a coordinated effort called Operation SLOG. It also used a secret program named “Hell” to keep track Lyft drivers without their knowledge.
Will we see a return to these shady practices? Board member Arianna Huffington and newly hired chief brand officer Bozoma Saint John are reportedly reshaping the company in their image. But Kalanick will remain influential on the board, and it’s doubtful that some of Uber’s more mercenary instincts — especially as it relates to Lyft — will vanish entirely.