In his two years as Uber Technologies Inc. CEO, Dara Khosrowshahi has proven himself adept at avoiding controversy, talking without generating headlines and generally presenting a kinder, friendly image of Uber to the world. This was especially useful last week on a call with analysts as he enthused about the ride-hailing company’s bright prospects shortly after it reported a second-quarter loss greater than the annual GDP of many island nations.
Source: Associated Press
Khosrowshahi has particularly stressed Uber's willingness to cooperate with local regulators and typically adopts a conciliatory tone when discussing the subject. So it was interesting to note the one subject that provoked an unusually forthright reaction from the CEO: Uber's challenges in New York.
Uber has not accepted new driver sign ups in New York City since April 1 due, it says, to the Taxi and Limousine Commission's recent legislative changes that included establishing a minimum wage for ride-hailing drivers and putting a freeze on new ride-hailing vehicle licenses. The movement has been championed by Mayor Bill de Blasio, who tweeted Aug. 7 that ride-sharing companies' "days of exploiting hard working New Yorkers are OVER." The freeze on licenses was extended for a further year last week — the day before Uber's earnings release.
"I think that a lot of the changes that are, have been introduced or potentially introduced in New York City, we just don't agree with," Khosrowshahi said on the Aug. 8 earnings call. "The city's essentially introducing another medallion system. And if you've read any of the articles in The New York Times, that system is ripe for abuse by people in power. And it's happened in the past, and the city could be setting itself up again. Anyone … who tells you that the changes in New York City are good is full of malarkey."
Uber has faced regulatory challenges in plenty of cities and is the subject of a blanket ban in many, but New York seems to have struck a particular nerve, suggesting the extension of the license freeze may have heightened concerns that others will follow its lead. Khosrowshahi maintains that Uber's business in the five boroughs is "pretty healthy, and it continues to grow," but he will surely be hoping that in this instance, there really is no place like New York.
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