DeSoto cab company taking on name of mobile app Flywheel

SAN FRANCISCO (KTVU) — A splashy new re-branding of one of San Francisco's oldest cab companies is underway.

DeSoto Cab's name and familiar blue and white color scheme date back to 1933. It's now turning red and being renamed after taxi-hailing app Flywheel, a Redwood City-based company that lets customers hail, track and pay for a cab through their cellphone.

"We want to lift the whole taxi industry. This branding helps get our message across that yes, you can use an app," Flywheel CTO Percy Rajani told KTVU Wednesday. "We have quite a few users already in San Francisco but we'll get a lot more now."

The app has been around since 2009 and is already in 85 percent of San Francisco cabs. But more recent offerings from Uber, Lyft and Sidecar have hit the taxi industry hard, which says it is more heavily regulated than those companies.

"Let me tell you, I was very, very worried about the idea of giving up such an iconic brand," DeSoto Cab President Hansu Kimsaid. "If we're going to be competitive, we have to make sure the public understands that we have these technologies."

Flywheel expects a big increase in app downloads over the next eight weeks when 250 DeSoto vehicles are repainted and rebranded. Drivers said they're embracing the change.

"It looks better, it's really visible," said Amilcar Pereira, who has driven a cab for 17 years. "People can spot a Flywheel with its red color far away and I like it."