Seven months after its parent company announced its departure from Singapore, Uber-owned car leasing firm Lion City Rentals is attempting to start anew.
Disputing reports that it plans to close down, Lion City Rental's new general manager, Mr Pascal Ly, told reporters yesterday that the firm now hopes to establish itself as the "preferred car rental company" here.
Lion City Rentals now has about 130 employees and is looking to increase its headcount, he added.
While the firm remains a subsidiary of Uber, the management of Lion City Rentals is now able to "independently" decide on its own business strategies, said Mr Ly, a French national who joined the firm about two months ago.
One of these strategies is to expand its customer base beyond private-hire car drivers to other drivers, such as those who want a car for work or "casual drivers" who need one for a specific purpose.
The firm is also introducing new incentives to attract and retain those who are renting its vehicles to provide ride-hailing services.
Mr Ly denied that these were last-ditch measures to keep the company afloat. "We're not in a desperate situation," he said.
Addressing media reports that the firm has been trying to get rid of its fleet, Mr Ly confirmed its fleet size had decreased since Uber's exit. But he declined to comment on how many cars the firm still has, and would only say its fleet size is in the "thousands". "We have decreased - that's the only thing I can say now," he said, adding that the fleet inventory was constantly being reviewed as part of efforts to keep the firm "nimble".
The Straits Times reported last month that Lion City Rentals' fleet size had shrunk by more than 30 per cent in recent months, from about 15,000 to about 10,000.
Car dealers said the entry of the firm's cars - some of which clocked low mileage - into the used-car market had an impact on new car sales.
In its ruling last month on Grab's acquisition of Uber's business here, the Competition and Consumer Commission of Singapore said the American ride-hailing firm should sell its vehicles to any potential competitor with a "reasonable offer", and would need the approval of the regulator to sell them to Grab.
Asked if Grab had made an offer to buy most or all of its fleet, Mr Ly would only say the company regularly receives offers to buy over its cars, declining further comment for reasons of confidentiality.
The firm has no concerns about the imminent entry of Indonesian ride-hailing firm Go-Jek, which is believed to be launching here as early as next month.
"Whoever (renters choose to) drive with, it isn't up to us to dictate or influence," he said, adding that Go-Jek's entry could lead to a "market uplift" for the private-hire car sector.
Lion City Rentals has also not ruled out being bought over by another firm, said Mr Ly, though he noted any such deal would still be subject to Uber's approval. "It depends on who comes and knocks on our door and says they are interested. We're totally open to that, we're not closing any doors."