As Uber Implodes, President Jeff Jones Cancels His Six-Month Ride

Matt Posky
by Matt Posky

Uber’s president Jeff Jones is quitting the car-hailing business after a brief six-month stretch.

Jones’ choice of a swift departure is essentially down to the company’s controversy laden decisions and apparent degenerate corporate culture. In addition to allegations of widespread sexual harassment, Uber has managed to routinely anger local governments by ignoring autonomous testing laws and by employing algorithms that denied service to potential investigators, regulators, or law enforcement officials. It’s also been accused of property theft, and CEO Travis Kalanick is exhibiting behavior unlikely to win people over.

It’s a real shit show.

Jones is just one of several Uber employees abandoning their posts, either because they’re fed up or forced out due to disharmony. The company fired its engineering VP after a serious sexual harassment investigation came to light via his previous employer Google. Its head of product left after questionable sexual behavior at a corporate event. And its senior director at Uber’s Advanced Technologies Center left to “focus on the family.” And VP of maps and business platforms is leaving. And …, and …, and …

For Jones, the decision to quit came down to an incompatibility between himself and whatever the hell is going on over at Uber.

“It is now clear, however, that the beliefs and approach to leadership that have guided my career are inconsistent with what I saw and experienced at Uber, and I can no longer continue as president of the ride-sharing business,” he said in a statement to Recode.

The final straw could be down to Kalanick’s choice to bring in a new COO to help him on damage control after his highly publicized altercation with one of his drivers. Although, according to sources, the issue there wasn’t so much that Jones was upset over Kalanick bringing in a new executive who could outrank him. Instead, it was that Uber created the new position to improve its gradually worsening image — the same task Uber brought on Jones to fix six-months earlier.

After being poached from Target, Jones started his work stint as president working as an Uber driver and meeting with employees to get a sense of what needed to be fixed.

“It’s clear that there’s much we can be doing better. Listening is where we get our best ideas, because they come from you, the people using Uber every day,” he said in an email to employees.

By February, some of those employees had turned on him in a public Q&A, posting angry comments while Jones did his utmost to reassure them.

“We are fixing the way we communicate with you and provide support to you — these are 100 percent about treating drivers with respect and as people. There is a lot that goes into earnings … things like earning on your way home with driver destinations or back-to-back trips or paid wait times beyond two minutes. Also, ensuring Uber is the first choice with riders. I am making sure that the Uber team knows drivers are our customers … our job is to make driving with Uber feel rewarding and worth your time,” he wrote.

With Jones gone, it’ll be up to someone else to make driving — and riding — with Uber feel rewarding and worth their time, and it isn’t clear who — if anyone — is up to the task.

Matt Posky
Matt Posky

A staunch consumer advocate tracking industry trends and regulation. Before joining TTAC, Matt spent a decade working for marketing and research firms based in NYC. Clients included several of the world’s largest automakers, global tire brands, and aftermarket part suppliers. Dissatisfied with the corporate world and resentful of having to wear suits everyday, he pivoted to writing about cars. Since then, that man has become an ardent supporter of the right-to-repair movement, been interviewed on the auto industry by national radio broadcasts, driven more rental cars than anyone ever should, participated in amateur rallying events, and received the requisite minimum training as sanctioned by the SCCA. Handy with a wrench, Matt grew up surrounded by Detroit auto workers and managed to get a pizza delivery job before he was legally eligible. He later found himself driving box trucks through Manhattan, guaranteeing future sympathy for actual truckers. He continues to conduct research pertaining to the automotive sector as an independent contractor and has since moved back to his native Michigan, closer to where the cars are born. A contrarian, Matt claims to prefer understeer — stating that front and all-wheel drive vehicles cater best to his driving style.

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  • Zerofoo Zerofoo on Mar 22, 2017

    All ride-sharing services are vulnerable. At their cores, Uber and Lyft are nothing more than software platforms that coordinate independent contractors. Essentially they are a giant phone book with only one type of business listing. How hard would it be for Google Maps to add a "Hail a driver now" button to their application? I'll bet a group of engineers could have it developed and working in a week. Uber, Lyft and other ride sharing software platforms are nothing more than middlemen between a consumer and a supplier. Ironically the very internet that enables their business, is very good at eliminating middlemen.

  • Philadlj Philadlj on Mar 22, 2017

    I've taken about a dozen Uber rides around Philly in the last year, and cannot report any problems. In every case they were easier, quicker and cheaper than securing a conventional cab ride. I used to knock it before I used it, but so far it's worked just fine for me.

  • 3-On-The-Tree I don’t think Toyotas going down.
  • ToolGuy Random thoughts (bulleted list because it should work on this page):• Carlos Tavares is a very smart individual.• I get the sense that the western hemisphere portion of Stellantis was even more messed up than he originally believed (I have no data), which is why the plan (old plan, original plan) has taken longer than expected (longer than I expected).• All the OEMs who have taken a serious look at what is happening with EVs in China have had to take a step back and reassess (oversimplification: they were thinking mostly business-as-usual with some tweaks here and there, and now realize they have bigger issues, much bigger, really big).• You (dear TTAC reader) aren't ready to hear this yet, but the EV thing is a tsunami (the thing has already done the thing, just hasn't reached you yet). I hesitate to even tell you, but it is the truth.
  • ToolGuy ¶ I have kicked around doing an engine rebuild at some point (I never have on an automobile); right now my interest level in that is pretty low, say 2/5.¶ It could be interesting to do an engine swap at some point (also haven't done that), call that 2/5 as well.¶ Building a kit car would be interesting but a big commitment, let's say 1/5 realistically.¶ Frame-up restoration, very little interest, 1/5.¶ I have repainted a vehicle (down to bare metal) and that was interesting/engaging (didn't have the right facilities, but made it work, sort of lol).¶ Taking a vehicle which I like where the ICE has given out and converting it to EV sounds engaging and appealing. Would not do it anytime soon, maybe 3 to 5 years out. Current interest level 4/5.¶ Building my own car (from scratch) would have some significant hurdles. Unless I started my own car company, which might involve other hurdles. 😉
  • Rover Sig "Value" is what people perceive as its worth. What is the worth or value of an EV somebody creates out of a used car? People value different things, but for a vehicle, people generally ascribe worth in terms of reliability, maintainability, safety, appearance and style, utility (payload, range, etc.), convenience, operating cost, projected life, support network, etc. "Value for money" means how much worth would people think it had compared to competing vehicles on the market, in other words, would it be a good deal to buy one, compared to other vehicles one could get? Consider what price you would have to ask for it, including the parts and labor you put into it, because that would affect the “for the money” part of the “value for money” calculation. An indicator of whether people think an EV-built-in-a-used-car would provide "value for money" is the current level of demand for used cars turned into EVs. Are there a lot of people looking for these on the market? Or would building one just be a hobby? Repairing an existing EV, bringing it back into spec, might create better value for the money. Although demand for EVs is reportedly down recently.
  • ToolGuy Those of you who aren't listening to the TTAC Podcast, you really don't know what you are missing.