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Troubling Update to UberBlack, Good or Bad?

Troubling Update to UberBlack, Good or Bad: You decide:

A few minutes ago, Uber released some information on an update to the  UberBlack service in Sacramento. [Note that this announcement was a local one so may not have spread to other cities nor does it indicate it would spread to other cities. Also a similar announcement was made back in August in San Francisco: https://blog.uber.com/UberBLACK-Quality-Update]

Here is a summary of the update:

Increasing Minimum Star Rating

I can see why they are increasing the minimum star rating of the drivers on UberBlack. The post doesn’t mention what the minimum rating is now and what it will be changing to. I inquired about upgrading to UberBlack and they mentioned that I would need a 4.8 rating or higher and have more than six months with UberX. Depending on your rating, the time on UberX may change; one of my friends was told two years.

Many users have been complaining about the decline of quality so much that they have converted to UberX as they often get the same or even better customer service on UberX. This is definitely not what Uber wants, especially in the product that is supposed to be higher in quality and price. They should use UberX as a recruitment platform for UberBlack. They have a pool of thousands of drivers and using that in each local market, they can use that to recruit the best drivers. Its a win-win.

Improvements to vehicle requirements

The second point of increasing vehicle requirements is very troubling for existing UberBlack and potentially UberSUV drivers, which may mean that some UberBlack drivers may no longer qualify for it and would need to change down to uberX. They just updated the requirement a year or two ago, which moved many UberBlack drivers down to UberX as their vehicles did not meet the year requirement. I can anticipate that they are going to be changing the year requirement a bit but also removing some cars from the list. I never understood how a Chrysler 300 can pass for UberBlack. If I take an UberBlack, I expect luxury so a Cadillac at a minimum.

This announcement was only for UberBlack, but I wonder if they will do the same for UberSUV. The list of UberSUV vehicles are pretty nice to begin with so I don’t think a change is needed, but with Uber, anything goes.

Price Increase of 13%

The last point of a pricing increase is always a good thing. If Uber wants UberBlack to be a premium product, the drivers will need to be paid as such. With the change in vehicle requirements, it may entice current UberBlack drivers to upgrade their vehicles to meet the new requirement. I don’t think it’ll be a clear decision for all UberBlack drivers to upgrade but it will definitely help them to do so.

These changes were only announced for Sacremento. I am not aware of the UberBlack requirements in Sacramento, so it could be just a change to keep up with a national standard. However, noting that very few people take UberBlack, this may be part of a larger program to refresh the UberBlack program in order to increase its brand distinction and to make it truly a premium product, rather than the product they are currently offering. Right now, it’s only a more expensive version of UberX with slightly nicer cars (there are some really nice cars now on UberX), but these changes may be able to bring it back up to how Uber became so popular.

In many markets, they have stopped onboarding UberBlack drivers. Hopefully they stopped the onboarding process in order to change UberBlack like this as there are some great drivers on X who would like to make more money on UberBlack.

How do you feel about the changes, from the perspective of an Uber driver or passenger? If you have switched to UberX from UberBlack, would you try UberBlack again? What are your thoughts about UberBlack as a service currently?

Below is the text from the post from the Uber Blog. You can see more at the link at the bottom of the page

UberBLACK is the reason many fell in love with Uber in the first place.

In the last four years, we’ve launched lower-cost options, experimented with delivery and expanded worldwide. Still, UberBLACK has always been the foundation of Uber. It’s always been the luxury leader.

We want to keep it that way, so we’re announcing key updates in Sacramento to make sure it stays best-in-class for the next four years and beyond.

THE HIGHEST QUALITY SERVICE

We’re setting a new standard for UberBLACK driver ratings. By increasing the minimum star rating for drivers on UberBLACK, you know you’re requesting the best Sacramento has to offer.

THE HIGHEST QUALITY VEHICLES

Over the next year we’re making improvements to the vehicle requirements on UberBLACK. We want to make sure that only the highest quality makes and models will be available on UberBLACK.

UberBLACK PRICING STRUCTURE UPDATE

As we make UberBLACK even better, we’re updating how we present pricing. Starting today we’re slightly increasing prices by 13% and doing away with flat rates in Sacramento. We know you rely on UberBLACK and you trust us to get you where you need to go.

Quoted from (https://blog.uber.com/SACUberBLACKupdate)

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