Uber adds 'valet' car rentals as it looks to rev rides

San Francisco, United States: Uber added valet delivery of rental cars to its suite of services on Wednesday, aiming to be a "one-stop-shop" for post-pandemic venturing out or dining in.

Uber aims to be a platform for summoning trips, running errands, and renting cars, just as Covid-19 vaccinations make it safer for people to travel about.

"Uber wants to be and is the one-stop-shop for getting to where you need to be," Uber engineer Adib Roumani said on a video briefing with journalists.

"That's really ultimately what we're after and we want to make sure that Uber speaks to all those use cases."

During the pandemic, the use of Uber's food delivery service, Eats, increased as people stopped going to stores or restaurants, while its main ride-share offering stalled.

"While much of the world stood still over the last year, our team at Uber has been reimagining how the world moves to help us return -- not just to normal, but to a better normal," Uber chief executive Dara Khosrowshahi said in a blog post.

According to executives, Uber is one of the tech companies helping with vaccination campaigns and is seeing some "green shoots" as more people get vaccinated.

The San Francisco-based company's long-term goal has been to get customers to use a variety of its services, such as enticing Uber Eats users to use the app for rides or rentals.

People taking shared rides can now order items for pick-up from shops along the route or have deliveries waiting for them when they get home, thanks to Uber.

A "valet" option added to Uber's car rental feature in the United States will allow users to book vehicles from Avis, with more partners to be added in the future.

"Your rental car will be brought to your doorstep so you can hit the road sooner," Khosrowshahi said. "And when you’re done, a driver will meet you to take the car back."

Uber Rent with Valet debuted in Washington, DC, with plans to eventually spread to other cities throughout the United States.

"If I was Hertz, I would be worried about his," analyst Rob Enderle of Enderle Group said of an Uber alliance with Avis.

"Merged those two companies would create a fairly powerful contender in the rental space."

Avis, Budget, and Hertz were already among the companies participating in an Uber feature that allows customers to rent cars for pickup.

Enderle reasoned that Uber integrating its services seamlessly in a single smartphone app will win and retain customers if the user experience is strong.

"The idea is excellent," the analyst said.

"But, it's going to depend on the execution, and Uber's execution has been anything but even."

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