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Category bounces back when economy reopens

Pilot programs signal autonomous future

The ride-hailing business plummeted during the height of the COVID-19 lockdown in February, but it began to quickly recover when the economy re-opened. By the Labor Day

holiday, on May 1, category leader Didi Chuxing reported that volume had returned to between 60-and-70 percent of normal.

During the pandemic, Didi used AI technology to verify that its drivers wore face masks, checked their temperature, and disinfected their cars. It planned to expand the technology to the six countries in Latin America where it operates. Didi is also present in Australia and Japan.

Signaling its intention to operate a fleet of over a million autonomous cars by the end of the decade, Didi introduced a pilot program that enables users of the Didi app to book a free ride in an autonomous car within a designated area of Shanghai. To ensure safety, human drivers are present to monitor the performance of the technology.

Didi also expanded into a new category, logistics, entering 10 Chinese cities with an on-demand freight business. On-demand freight attempts to disrupt traditional logistics operations by optimizing freight hauling with an app-based system that connects customers with a network of truck drivers who can move goods around.

The transport category remained unchanged in value year-on-year, reflecting the impact of Coivid-19 and the challenges facing Didi Chuxing, the only transport brand ranked in the BrandZTM Top 100. Although Didi addressed well-publicized security issues, its stock price initially suffered and the reputational impact may have benefited competitors, which include Caocao Chauxing, backed in part by the car brand Geely, along with Dida Chauxing, and the lifestyle brand Meituan.