Lyft has gained customers during Uber's run of bad publicity

The Washington Post

Uber's recent stumbles could be giving Lyft a chance to gain ground in the ride-hailing market as customers shift allegiance, new market data suggest.

The study comes as Uber has been dealing with a run of bad news.

Lyft's customer base has grown 7% since Jan. 29, when the company tried to capitalize on controversy over the Trump administration's executive order temporarily halting travel to the U.S. by people from certain countries, according to market research firm 1010data.

1010data says the shift in customer allegiance coincides with a decision by Lyft to donate $1 million to the American Civil Liberties Union over four years to fight the travel ban. The ACLU has vowed to fight President Trump's travel ban, which affects immigrants from several Muslim-majority countries and refugees.

Around the same time, Uber came under fire for advertising that it was operating at New York’s Kennedy International Airport during a taxi strike protesting the same executive order. That, coupled with Uber Chief Executive Travis Kalanick’s involvement in a panel advising Trump on economic issues, helped spawn the Twitter hashtag #DeleteUber, which encouraged customers to delete the app from their phones in protest.

It didn't seem to matter that Uber later said it had turned off surge pricing near the site of the protest to avoid profiting from it, or that Lyft has ties to investor Peter Thiel, another Trump ally.

It's not clear whether this is just a temporary blip. Uber has faced additional bad publicity in recent weeks, including sexual harassment allegations, a lawsuit by Google alleging the theft of trade secrets and a viral video showing Kalanick losing his temper with an Uber driver.

But the company is trying to turn its image around. Kalanick issued an apology for his treatment of the driver and vowed to seek “leadership help.”

And 1010data noted that although San Francisco-based Lyft is growing at a faster rate, Uber — which is also based in San Francisco — remains the ride-hailing giant: It said Uber has arranged about 86% of all app-based rides since 2014.

Still, the firm's data put numbers on the power of politics to influence a sales pitch — or show, at least, that the company knows who its audience is.

1010data said in a statement that its data are sifted from "a number of sources of consumer spending data representing millions of consumers" in online and offline retail markets.

Gabrielle Jasinski, a spokeswoman for 1010data, said that the study was not commissioned by Uber or Lyft and that 1010data has no affiliation with either company.

Kunkle writes for the Washington Post. Times staff writer Tracey Lien contributed to this report.

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