With 90% of its fleet missing, Chinese bike-rental schemes goes flat

The company realised too late that it probably would have been better to attach GPS tech to its bikes

A bike-sharing company in China has gone bust after 90% of its bicycles disappeared in the first five months of operation.

Wukong Bikes, which opened for business earlier this year by making 1,200 two-wheelers available to the citizens of Chongqing, reported that the vast majority of them had been either lost or stolen.

The company was left with egg on its face after it revealed that – unlike rival bike-share schemes operating in the city – Wukong Bikes had not fitted out its fleet with GPS systems to track their locations. By the time the company figured out that this upgrade was necessary to maintain their dwindling numbers, the company’s coffers were empty.

In a country where cycling is a common way of getting around congested cities, several prominent investors have launched competing bike-rental, with both Alibaba and Xiaomi supporting schemes.

Wukong was a significantly smaller player in the field. Targeting students, company founder Lei Houyi told local media that in addition to cutting costs on GPS tech, Wukong struggled to get ahead of the competition due to its inferior quality bikes that were easily damaged.

The Wukong model operates in a similar fashion to the hugely popular Dublin Bikes, the rental scheme sponsored by Coca Cola that has spread to Cork, Galway and Limerick. But unlike those cities, which require users to dock bikes at stations dotted around the locality when they finish using them, Wukong allowed users to leave bikes anywhere they wanted.

This meant that bikes abandoned in remote places were unlikely to be found by anyone wanting to hire them, and with the company unable to track their location, they simply disappeared.

To resolve this, Wukong offered cash and credit rewards to anyone who could find and hire its vanished fleet, in the hope that they would relocate them to more accessible places.

But it was to no avail, with the company now folding and the missing bikes lost for good.

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