SAN FRANCISCO -- DeSoto Cab has been roaming the streets of San Francisco under its brand since 1933, but on Wednesday, the taxi company is adopting the name of an e-hailing mobile app and reintroducing itself as “FlywheelTaxi” to better compete against Uber and Lyft. The company, which is the city’s oldest-standing taxi fleet, is hoping the rebranding will let consumers know that cabs can also be booked using smartphones.  

“The idea here is for us to ... let the public know that not only do we have this technology but we can do it without surge pricing, with professional drivers who know where they’re going and with real commercial insurance,” Hansu Kim, president of DeSoto Cab, said. “It’s to let the consumers know that we can be technology innovators, too.”  

Flywheel is an app that lets smartphone users hail cabs in numerous cities around the country. In San Francisco, Flywheel works with 85 percent of the city’s taxis. By partnering, DeSoto Cab and Flywheel are hoping to build a major taxi-app brand that can go toe-to-toe with Lyft and Uber.

Taxi companies have been lobbying governments around the globe to place the same type of regulations that they deal with on ride-booking companies like Lyft and Uber, but for the most part, they’ve been unsuccessful. The next strategy is better brand marketing.

“The fact is it’s a deregulated environment now, and I have to be competitive in that environment,” Kim said. “We’re giving up our own brand to build the Flywheel brand to build back the taxi business that got lost to the other services.”

Under the rebranding, DeSoto Cab will introduce more than 300 red taxis sporting the “FlywheelTaxi” brand. That’s approximately one out of every six cabs in San Francisco. The cabs will feature decals letting consumers know they can download the Flywheel app from Google Play and the Apple App Store.

“We really will be a taxi-app-oriented fleet,” Kim said. “We really think we’re leading the charge in the way that other cab companies will have to follow.”

The introduction of Flywheel-branded cars will raise awareness of the app and in turn raise ride volume for all the fleets that work with the mobile company in San Francisco, CEO Rakesh Mathur said. Flywheel is also available in Los Angeles, Seattle, Sacramento and San Diego. Mathur said he hopes to find partners like DeSoto Cab in other cities.

“Just like there’s a [Yellow Cab] in Sacramento, there’s a yellow in San Diego and there’s a yellow in San Francisco, we think there should be a FlywheelTaxi in every city,” Mathur said. “There’s the potential to build a very strong national brand.”