Uber-owned Lion City Rentals remains in business despite fleet downsizing

Lion City Rental's new general manager Pascal Ly said that the firm now hopes to establish itself as the "preferred car rental company" in Singapore. ST PHOTO: MARK CHEONG

SINGAPORE - Seven months after its parent company announced its departure from Singapore, Uber-owned car leasing firm Lion City Rentals is attempting to start anew.

Disputing reports that it plans to close down, Lion City Rental's new general manager Pascal Ly told reporters on Thursday (Oct 25) that the firm now hopes to establish itself as the "preferred car rental company" in Singapore.

"Right now, I'm focused on the future and how I can bring this business through this transition phase," said the French national.

Lion City Rentals currently has about 130 staff and is looking to increase its headcount, he added.

While it remains a subsidiary of Uber, Mr Ly - who joined the firm about two months ago - said the management of Lion City Rentals is now able to "independently" decide on its own business strategies.

One of these strategies is to expand its customer base beyond leasing its vehicles to private-hire car drivers, to other segments such as those who may need a car for work or "casual drivers" who want it for personal purposes.

The company is also introducing new incentives to attract and retain those who are renting its vehicles to drive for ride-hailing services.

Mr Ly denied that these were last-ditch measures to keep the company afloat.

"We're not in a desperate situation," he said.

Addressing media reports that the company has been trying to get rid of its fleet, Mr Ly confirmed that its fleet size had decreased since Uber's exit. However, he declined to comment on how many cars the firm still has, and would only say its fleet size remains in the "thousands".

"We have decreased, that's the only thing I can say now," he said, adding that the fleet inventory was constantly being reviewed as part of efforts to keep the company "nimble".

The Straits Times reported last month that Lion City Rentals' fleet size had decreased by more than 30 per cent in recent months, from about 15,000 to about 10,000. Car dealers said the entry of Lion City Rentals' cars, some of which clocked very little mileage, into the used-car market impacted on the sales of new cars.

In a ruling last month on Grab's acquisition of Uber's business here, the Competition and Consumer Commission of Singapore said the American ride-hailing firm should sell its vehicles to any potential competitor with a "reasonable offer", and would need the approval of the regulator to sell them to Grab.

When asked if Singapore-based Grab had made an offer to buy most or all of its fleet, Mr Ly would only say that the company regularly receives such offers to buy over its cars but declined further comment for reasons of confidentiality.

The firm has no concerns about the imminent entry of Indonesian ride-hailing firm Go-Jek, which is believed to be launching its business in Singapore as early as next month.

"Whoever (renters) drive with, it isn't up to us to dictate or influence," Mr Ly said.

Lion City Rentals has also not ruled out being bought over by another firm, he said.

"It depends on who comes and knocks on our door and says they're interested. We're totally open to that, we're not closing any doors," he said, though he noted any such deal would still be subject to Uber's approval.

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