Uber in Qatar has launched a new service that slashes prices by up to 25 percent for pickups in smaller, older cars.
The UberGo option came into force last week and is in addition to the existing UberX service.
UberGo uses smaller hatchback vehicles, such as the Toyota Corolla or Honda Civic, and has a minimum fare of QR10, Uber said in a statement announcing the new service.
“There is probably a couple of hundred thousand riders in Qatar who we previously priced out of the market. We wanted to offer something more affordable for them,” Chris Free, general manager of Uber in the UAE and Qatar, told Doha News.
However, drivers working under UberGo would need to make more journeys to earn the same money they were making before.
These lower fares could discourage some drivers from joining, one cabbie told Doha News.
Previously, Qatar was the only country in which Uber offered one type of service.
In other nations for example, riders could hire an UberXL if they needed a larger vehicle, or deploy a premium “black” car.
Now, Qatar is the first country in the region to have UberGo, although this service is already available in India, Pakistan and Sri Lanka.
The company said the service is aimed at the many people here who do not have their own cars or a driving license, and wish to make quick, cheap trips.
It added that a “good supply” of smaller, older vehicles are behind the launch of the new service.
Customers using the Uber app can choose either X or Go and can toggle between the two services.
Payment can be made in cash, or by credit card.
The new service is an attempt to take on Dubai-based Careem, which already has three cost options for Qatar passengers – Go, Economy and Premium.
Using the online fare calculator, fares for a mid-week, daytime trip from the W Hotel in Dafna/West Bay to the airport appeared to be slightly cheaper under Uber.
The route cost some QR30-40 under UberGo, and QR39-51 under UberX.
Meanwhile, the cost of taking Careem was around QR43 for Go, QR54 for its Economy service and QR69 for Premium rides.
That said, so far this week, waiting times for UberGo cars appear to be longer than for UberX vehicles.
However, Free said more drivers were still being brought onto the new service and that waiting times should fall in the coming weeks.
“We are getting more drivers on the platform and more companies signed up,” he said.
Uber declined to confirm the number of drivers it has using its app, saying that is commercially sensitive information.
While cheaper fares might be good news for passengers, it will mean drivers working under UberGo will have to do more work for the same amount of money.
This may not be possible for those working during peak hours such as evenings and weekends, when the traffic is heavy and even short journeys take longer.
Muhammad Kamran Qureshi/Flickr
Speaking to Doha News, one UberX driver said:
“It will be difficult. Drivers will have to do too many trips to get their money. It is a very cheap price (for the fares). Not so many drivers will be working for UberGo. It is too cheap,” he said.
For now, drivers are not being given the choice of which service they will operate under.
Those with smaller cars that are from 2012 or older will only be able to work under UberGo, Free told Doha News.
“We might in the future give drivers the choice but to avoid confusion right now, the two services will be distinct. We felt like we wanted to differentiate the offering, on price and age of vehicle,” he added.
Currently, vehicles older than five years cannot use the Uber platform, though Free said this could change.
This is not the first time Uber has tried to drive down taxi fares in Qatar to attract more customers and compete with local rival Careem.
In April this year, it reduced fares by by around 15 to 20 percent for passengers.
Despite claims at the time by the company that it would protect drivers’ income, many protested by refusing to log-on to the software that connects them with customers.
This led to a shortage of available cars, long waiting times for passengers and surge-pricing.
Despite the price cuts, Free said that average drivers’ earnings per hour in September “surpassed” those of April this year, when the lower fares were introduced. And he said that the number of journeys made was also up.
“They are making more money, doing more trips,” he added. However, he would not give any figures for these claims.
Would you use UberGo? Thoughts?