Lyft pimps its ride, takes on Uber's 'stodgy' black car service

The peer-to-peer car service asks drivers to purchase tricked-out SUVs as part of its new Lyft Plus premium option.

Donna Tam Staff Writer / News
Donna Tam covers Amazon and other fun stuff for CNET News. She is a San Francisco native who enjoys feasting, merrymaking, checking her Gmail and reading her Kindle.
Donna Tam
2 min read

Lyft's new, custom-made premium SUV for Lyft Plus. Lyft

Lyft rolled out a premium peer-to-peer car service on Thursday in a challenge to Uber's luxury black car and SUV rides -- and it's doing it in the flashiest way possible.

Essentially, Lyft has pimped its rides by partnering with West Coast Customs, the car shop made famous by MTV reality show "Pimp My Ride," which showed off customized cars with over-the-top designs. The shop has customized a number of Ford Explorers specifically for Lyft, complete with a brushed-steel mustache emblem attached to the grilles, and LED lights underneath the car that light up the ground. As with Lyft's original service, users can order a car through their mobile phones in real time. The service is live in San Francisco with plans to expand to other cities.

"We wanted to give it a wow factor," Ethan Eyler, the creative lead on Lyft's new rides, said about the company's decision to invest in tricked-out vehicles. "You look at the stodgy old town car and to us it just feels so stodgy and old."


Lyft competitor Uber has built a global and dominant on-demand car service off traditional town cars and SUVs. Uber recently launched in its 100th city worldwide, and has its peer-to-peer service in 47 US cities. In contrast, Lyft is in 60 US cities. Plus, Lyft has always prided itself on being a sillier, more inclusive and lower-priced alternative to the luxury service. While it seems an unlikely route for the quirky car service -- whose drivers attach a fuzzy, pink mustache to their cars -- Lyft knew it was missing a chunk of the market by not having an upscale option, Eyler said.

Drivers are expected to buy these cars independently and then offer a new Lyft service, Lyft Plus, which will cost users twice as much to ride. Lyft wouldn't say how much the drivers would have to pay for the actual car or how many of these vehicles are now on the road. A spokeswoman said Lyft has negotiated special pricing for the drivers.

The company claims that the new premium ride will still cost less than an Uber black car or an Uber SUV ride, and "thousands of community members have requested invites" to take a ride since it opened its wait list last week.

Eyler said he thinks big groups or users who want to impress a date will want to order a vehicle like the Plus cars. Additionally, the car could be a more attractive option to those who have avoided driving for Lyft because they didn't want to slap its fuzzy moniker on their cars.

"We're cognizant of that," he said. "There's different kinds of way to bring the Lyft experience, so we wanted to be able to create those experiences for drivers who didn't want the pink mustache."