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    Jun 07, 2016

    Ethoz Group firm joins private-hire vehicle fray

    ETHOZCAB is Singapore's latest cab company - except that it is not exactly a cab company, but a leasing company that has jumped onto the private-hire bandwagon.

    Individuals can get a car from EthozCab to start ferrying fares at rental charges that start from $50 a day - half the average rate of taxis.

    The barrier of entry is also far lower than that for taxi drivers.

    Hirers merely need to be citizens or permanent residents at least 21 years old and holding a Class 3 or 3A driving licence. But they need to register a company under the Private Car for Hire with Operator classification.

    The company is starting with a fleet of 50 Mazda 3 and Toyota Altis sedans, but said it will scale up to meet demand.

    "We have no cap," a spokesman said.

    EthozCab is launched by Ethoz Group, a leasing and financing company part-owned by Nissan and Subaru dealer Tan Chong International.

    Asked why it is starting this service after being in the leasing business for over 30 years, the spokesman said: "There's no denying the rise of the private-hire industry. Between 2013 and this year, the number of rental cars has doubled.

    "We're responding to match this paradigm shift in the market."

    According to Land Transport Authority figures, there are more than 34,000 rental cars on the road - up from 16,396 in 2013.

    The surge has been fuelled by ride-hailing apps such as Uber and Grab.

    Traditional taxi companies have started to respond to the competition as well. SMRT started Strides, a private-hire service, in April to attract hirers who prefer not to drive taxis. Prime Taxi is looking to grow its fleet of 300 private-hire vehicles to more than 500 in the next one year.

    Besides having to bear higher rentals, taxi drivers have to be at least 30 years old, and must clock at least 250km a day. Before they can get their licence to operate, they also have to pass a vocational course, which requires them to memorise several routes and destinations.

    The only advantage they have is that they are allowed to do street hails. But with more people hailing cabs with their phones, the number of street hails is poised to shrink.

    "Technology and connectivity have disrupted traditional business models," the EthozCab spokesman said.