Ride-hailing service Lyft will rent cars to prospective drivers whose own vehicles are not up to snuff as part of a program with General Motors that aims to lure new drivers.
Called Express Drive, the short-term program will rent GM cars to Lyft drivers for $99 a week for up to eight weeks. Under the program, which is launching this month in Chicago, drivers who log at least 65 rides in a week get their rental for free.
"We're making sure everyone who wants to be a Lyft driver can be," Lyft co-founder and President John Simmer said in a statement.
The rental program is the first initiative to be announced by the two companies since GM said in January it would invest $500 million in Lyft in an effort to develop driverless, on-demand vehicles. A few weeks later, GM paid an undisclosed sum to acquire the technology and other assets from now-failed ride-hailing service Sidecar to bolster its relationship with Lyft.
San Francisco-based Lyft, which pairs passengers with drivers via a smartphone app, operates in 150 cities in the US and provides more than 1 million rides per week. It's small compared with rival Uber, which is in 60 countries around the world.
To keep up, Lyft has been developing incentive programs to lure drivers from Uber. With more Lyft drivers on the road, people using the smartphone app to get a ride could see shorter wait times.
One of the biggest obstacles to getting more drivers on the road is finding applicants with qualified vehicles, according to Lyft. In Chicago alone, the company said, it had 60,000 applicants who wanted to drive but couldn't because their cars didn't pass muster.
Lyft has offered perks to drivers in the past in efforts to attract and retain more drivers. In October, it announced partnerships with Shell gas stations and rental car company Hertz that offered drivers discounts on gas and car rentals. It also unveiled a new in-app feature built with payments processor Stripe that will make it easier for drivers to cash out their earnings from rides.
Uber also has incentives for its drivers, including a car rental pilot program with Cox automotive company Flexdrive and a discount fuel card for drivers who carry out at least 200 trips per month in which they can save 1.5 percent every time they fill their tank.
Lyft drivers who sign up for the program in Chicago can expect a Chevrolet Equinox crossover, Lyft said.
The program is expected to expand soon to other US cities, including Boston, Baltimore and Washington, DC.