Toyota invests $69M in Japanese Uber rival backed by the taxi industry


This partnership between DiDi and SoftBank demonstrates one such effort. Ride-hailing companies face strict rules that effectively bar nonprofessional drivers from offering taxi services on safety grounds. With Didi and SoftBank set to offer yet another competitor, it is no surprise that Uber CEO Dara Khosrowshahi has made Japan the first stop of his inaugural trip to Asia as head of the ride-sharing firm.

Didi and Softbank would start trial services in Japan sometime this year, according to CNBC. The automaker believes that cloud computing and data are the next big things and are powerful enough to disrupt and present opportunities for a new stream of revenue amid a shift towards connected, autonomous and electrified vehicles.

Didi has expanded overseas rapidly in the past year since sealing its dominance in China with the purchase of Uber's local unit in 2016, ending a cash-burning subsidy war that cost the USA firm roughly U$2 billion.

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The Chinese company is also looking to break into Mexico and is expanding its presence in regions outside the Chinese mainland including Hong Kong and Taiwan. Softbank is already an investor in Didi. To complicate matters further, Uber itself owns a 20 percent stake in Didi Chuxing it obtained when it sold off its Chinese division to the company in 2016.

The move comes in response to the steadily falling rates of driving among younger consumers, the rise of the so-called "sharing economy", and the popularity of ride-hailing apps such as Uber and Lyft. Its move into Japan adds to its worldwide expansion plans that so far have included the acquisition of Brazilian ride-sharing service 99 Corp.

Didi is also trying to diversify at home.

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The Renault-Nissan-Mitsibushi automotive alliance announced earlier this week it has signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with Didi to join the project, which also has Chinese auto giant BYD and local partners of Ford on board.

Softbank and Didi Chuxing announced a "partnership to provide platform services for the taxi industry" with trial runs expected to be launched in major Japanese cities "within the year".

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