By Paul Carsten
BEIJING (Reuters) - China's dominant taxi-hailing firm Didi Kuaidi will spend 1 billion yuan ($161.39 million) on promotions, the company said on Friday, in an aggressive expansion that will help lure in riders and fend of rivals like U.S. firm Uber Technologies Inc.
Alongside the basic cab calling function, users of the Didi Kuaidi app will have access to premium cars, carpooling, designated drivers and a service for passengers with special needs, the company said in a statement.
The goal is to serve 30 million people a day within three years, Cheng Wei, CEO of Didi Kuaidi, said.
If the strategy succeeds, Didi Kuaidi - backed by rival Internet giants Tencent Holdings Ltd and Alibaba Group Holding Ltd - could hammer the final nail into the coffin of its competitors in China.
These rivals include Uber, the $40 billion U.S. start-up backed by Chinese search leader Baidu Inc, and local firm Yidao Yongche.
Didi Kuaidi, created in a merger in February, is the world's largest smartphone-based transport service, valued at roughly $6 billion, according to person familiar with the deal. The firm already dominates China's taxi hailing market.
Didi Kuaidi is moving beyond calling cabs, pitting it squarely against Uber and Yidao Yongche, which use private cars rather than letting people call licensed taxis.
Using apps to hire private cars has met with resistance from some authorities in China, which have said the business is illegal and are now beefing up regulation of the sector.
Didi Kuaidi operates in 360 cities in China and has 1.35 million drivers. Its premium car service is in 61 cities with 400,000 drivers. Daily calls for taxis have hit 4 million per day, while premium cars are ordered 1.5 million times a day.
(Editing by Jeremy Laurence)