Lyft Paints it Black with New Luxury Services

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Ride-hail firm Lyft has added two high-end options to its service, as the company looks to muscle in on Uber’s luxury travel market. Lyft Lux and Lyft SUV will launch across five US cities, and will come with a number of adjusted driver qualifications to ensure a step up from Lyft’s regular service.

The two new services opened in New York City, Los Angeles, Chicago, San Francisco and San Jose from today, with another 15 locations added as the rollout continues into mid-June. Cars must date from no earlier than 2011, be painted black and have leather or faux-leather seating. SUVs must seat at least six passengers.

The new service is “an evolution of Lyft,” the company’s chief business officer David Baga told Bloomberg. “As our passengers and driver community request more optionality, we’ve really listened.”

Last year Lyft responded to the upscale Uber Black service with Lyft Premier. But, having observed its San Francisco neighbor endure some terrible PR in the past few months, Lyft is keen to wrest Uber’s premium rides away. Launching in the United States’ largest cities will, it hopes, give concerned consumers another option.

In January this year Uber was accused of strike-breaking at New York’s JFK Airport, cutting its ‘surge pricing’ as taxi drivers protested Donald Trump’s so-called Muslim travel ban. The hashtag #DeleteUber went viral and thousands dropped their accounts.

In February Uber CEO Travis Kalanick was caught on camera arguing with an Uber driver, about whom he later said: “Some people don’t like to take responsibility for their own sh*t.” Kalanick has since apologized.

Lyft responded to January’s controversy announcing a donation of $1 million to the ACLU, a civil rights group–though its own business practices have been called into question on multiple occasions.

Today’s news comes as both Uber and Lyft reenter the lucrative Austin, TX market a year after leaving. The pair had initially refused to submit drivers to resident-voted fingerprint-based background checks. But with state legislature now nixing that requirement, the city of almost a million is open to the industry’s two biggest players.