Uber vs Lyft: Trump Effect?

For the last few years, there has been a fierce battle between the two ride-sharing rivals in the US: Uber and Lyft. Unfortunately for Lyft, Uber's dominance has been quite clear since the start. However, recent developments in politics have changed the competitive landscape, at least temporarily. First, the newly-elect President Donald Trump's controversial move to ban permanent residents & visa holders from entering the US has met with fierce opposition from Americans for the last few days. Then, association of Uber's CEO Travis Kalanick and the newly-elect President Donald Trump made headlines, resulting in some people calling for boycott of the service. Is this really having an impact on Uber and Lyft's business? Below, we showcase some interesting findings in Apple App Store Data

Lyft Taking the #1 Spot in the US for the First Time

For as long as Lyft and Uber existed, Lyft had never beat Uber in the US. However, things have changed quite dramatically in the last few days. While Uber has been fighting a PR disaster, Lyft has been receiving a lot of good press for its $1mn donation in support of American Civil Liberties Union. Though nobody knows for how long this trend will persist, it's definitely working for now.

As you can see below, Lyft has never ranked higher than Uber on the App Store until this past weekend. Riding on its PR success and its rival's political trouble, Lyft actually overtook Uber as the most downloaded travel app for the last two consecutive days.

Uber vs Lyft Download Ranking in the US

Below is a table that shows the last 7 days of ranking to magnify the change in the last few days.

US AppStore Download Ranking - TravelUberLyft

Lyft Rising in Canada & UK

We've also noticed a similar trend happening in our neighbor countries Canada and UK. While Uber still reigns as the #1 most downloaded travel app on the App Store, Lyft has been experiencing a dramatic increase in its popularity in these countries. As you can see below, while Uber is still #1 most downloaded app on the App Store, Lyft has been rising in popularity quite rapidly. In Canada, for instance, Lyft had never ranked higher than #10 in the Travel App category until January 29th, after the news about President Trump's executive order spread. Similarly, Lyft had never ranked above $50 in the Travel App category, but now ranks at #11 behind apps like Uber, Booking.com, Trainline, Ryanair, Airbnb and TripAdivisor, just to name a few.

Uber vs Lyft Download Ranking in Canada
Uber vs Lyft Download Ranking in the UK

Global Implication & Concerns About Uber's Business Model

We've also taken a look at the download rankings of these two apps in other countries, but have yet picked up any sign that Uber is losing ground to its rivals. However, what this does demonstrate is that the "market place" dynamic that investors love is actually not as strong as some may believe. As Uber and Lyft demonstrate, most drivers (i.e. merchants) in the ride-sharing market use all the available ride-sharing apps: it doesn't cost them any extra to be on multiple platforms. This means that, at the end of the day, users can switch to another platform very easily: all the drivers are already available on Lyft! All they need is a little incentive, and this has been happening for Uber and Lyft at least for now.

We've seen the same thing happen in China when Uber competed against local rivals Didi and Kuaidi. As long as Didi and Kuaidi had money to spend, Uber just couldn't compete very well in China: small surprise it ended up selling its Chinese business to Didi. This has interesting implications for other regional players like Ola and Grab: It's very difficult to compete when another service with a bigger wallet is willing to provide cheaper rides while losing money in order to drive you out of business.

Update: This "Trump Effect" seems to have been indeed very negative for Uber's business. In fact, shortly after we published our study, Kalanick left Trump's business advisory council.

Duckju Kang

Duckju (DJ) is the founder and CEO of ValueChampion. He covers the financial services industry, consumer finance products, budgeting and investing. He previously worked at hedge funds such as Tiger Asia and Cadian Capital. He graduated from Yale University with a Bachelor of Arts degree in Economics with honors, Magna Cum Laude. His work has been featured on major international media such as CNBC, Bloomberg, CNN, the Straits Times, Today and more.