Boston Chauffeur Driven Show
Thursday, September 19, 2019

Global business continues to be a strong sector for not only our industry, but also the vertical markets that we serve, such as hospitality and meeting planning. Most operators have focused their efforts on growing their international network—as witnessed by the robust showing at conferences like the Global Business Travel Association and our own show’s International Meet & Greet reception—to offer their traveling corporate clients transportation on the second leg of their journey abroad—and beyond. But how well do you understand the market that you are sending work to and the unique challenges that those operators face? That’s what we wanted to know!

As a U.S. operator, it’s easy to take for granted the systems that we all share: a common currency, well-maintained roads (even if you’re sick of construction or recurring potholes on the routes your chauffeurs travel daily), relatively stable gas prices, and a rich variety of vehicles to populate your fleet and meet your clients’ needs. Sure, we have our own issues that consume the time and efforts of business owners, but in many parts of the world the challenges are surprising: business taxes that exceed 50 percent, aggressive regulatory bodies, tedious employee protections that make it almost impossible to terminate, and gas prices that are even more than double what you might currently pay. Hey, it’s not all doom and gloom, of course, but it is likely different from what you might expect.

We spoke with operators from 15 different countries to get their take on what it’s like to run a transportation company in their area, sometimes in places with open borders, various currencies, and roads that were built before SUVs and buses were a fleet staple. All but one of the operators we spoke with reported that their chauffeurs were employees (rather than independent contractors, with the exception being an operation running a mix of the two) and that they were beholden to or implemented some kind of background checks prior to and during employment. A special thank you to our international friends who provided a snapshot of what they face as business owners across the globe.

Marina Brugnaro Marina Brugnaro
Sales and Affiliate Relations Manager of The New International Limo
• 30 years in business
• Nine vehicles operating in Italy

What are the biggest challenges to operating in your area?
The biggest challenges are providing a professional, safe, and punctual service at the “right” price. But, because of the many costs we professional operators have, prices are driven higher while, on the other hand, unruly competitors disrupt the market more and more.

What is the current price of a liter of fuel?
€1.5 /liter (approx. $6.68 per U.S. gallon)

What are the preferred vehicles for your market?
Mercedes-Benz E-Class and S-Class sedans, Viano, and Sprinter executive vans; sometimes BMWs or Fiats

What percent of your work is sent through American companies?
About 50%

What is your minimum coverage for insurance?
€10M

How much have companies like Uber impacted your area?
Uber has not so much impacted the Italian market but where it’s happening, it mostly invades the taxicabs’ business.

What are some of the issues/differences in operational standards you want your North American counterparts to better understand?
Cancellation policies are the most sensitive issue. When you’re working with different time zones, 24-hour notice should be the minimum period to allow an operator to review his working schedule without any penalty fee. This is because we are providing a service that needs to be coordinated, not just simple transportation.


Guillaume Connan Guillaume Connan
General Director of Chabé
• 95 years in business
• 280 vehicles operating in France with wholly owned subsidiaries in Paris, Lyon, Courchevel, Geneva, Cannes, ­Marseille, Toulouse, Bordeaux, and Biarritz

What is the current price of a liter of fuel?
USD $1.30 (approx. $5.20 per U.S. gallon)

What are the preferred vehicles (model, style) for your market?
Mercedes-Benz E-Class, V-Class, and S-Class

What percent of your work is sent through American companies?
Less than 5%

How much have companies like Uber impacted your area?
Uber has changed the way we operate and forced us to improve our productivity and decrease our prices while maintaining our quality. This has been and remains a challenge, although the overall outlook is much more positive than it was before because we now have adapted our operations to this new environment and Uber’s quality of service has decreased over the past few months.

What are the biggest challenges to operating in your area?
Our challenges include competition in an era where price transparency and increased competition from Uber-like platforms are the norm, improving quality of service when many new drivers have arrived in the market at the same time and drivers’ turnover increases, investing in IT and international expansion while the business remains highly competitive and with margins under pressure, and navigating in a constantly changing regulatory environment.

If your company operates between countries, what type of documentation is required when crossing borders?
Because of the European single market, operating between different countries is quite simple. Nevertheless, some countries, such as Switzerland and Monaco, are not part of the European Union and specific rules must be followed. Other than that, some fiscal issues (e.g., VAT refund in other European countries) remain a concern.

(If applicable) Has the Euro simplified billing?
Yes, of course, billing is simpler and overall transaction costs are lower thanks to the Euro.

What are some of the issues/differences in operational standards you want your North American counterparts to better understand?
There still are some significant differences that can be solved with good communication (e.g., information sent and received prior, during, or after a job), but one of the biggest differences relates to rates, as we tend to propose prices that include many of the extra costs our American counterparts bill separately, even for simple transfers (e.g., airport parking, tolls, administrative fees etc.). It would be beneficial for us and our clients to have the same rules for the calculation of prices.


Colin Devine Colin Devine
CEO of Devine’s Worldwide Chauffeur Services
• 38 years in business
• 30 vehicles operating in Ireland

Number of employees (including drivers)
54

What is the current price of a liter of fuel?
€1.12 (approx. $5 per U.S. gallon)

What are the preferred vehicles for your market?
Mercedes-Benz E-Class, S-Class, and V-Class and Sprinter executive vans

What percent of your work is sent through American companies?
10%

What is your minimum coverage for insurance?
USD $20M

What type of documentation is required when crossing borders?
Local licensing and insurance are needed to cross an invisible border to Northern Ireland for cities like Belfast.

What are the biggest challenges to operating in your area?
Ireland punches above its weight class in terms of international business. We have a lot of Foreign Direct Investment here due to competitive corporation tax rates. On one hand, there are exceptional opportunities for business here but on the other, we are a country of just over 4 million people and Dublin has a population of just over 1 million—we are not a major market based on the size and location of our Island. This can create challenges to scaling and growing a company when we are so dependent on what’s happening in the U.S., U.K., and the rest of Europe.

What are some of the issues/differences in operational standards you want your North American counterparts to better understand?
In Europe, chauffeurs rarely have access to baggage claim to greet clients; in Irish airports, your chauffeurs greet passengers in the arrivals hall after baggage claim. Also, smaller vehicles in Europe used to lead to a lot of requests for luxury sedans with extra legroom—now it seems when U.S. passengers travel to Europe the E-Class is the industry expectation. I have heard that when U.S. guests travel to Europe for business now, they expect two things: smaller cars and warm beer.

How much have companies like Uber impacted your area?
Much like the U.S., it’s a new customer demographic mostly using Uber in Dublin, mostly younger people enjoying a night out or booking a cheap ride to the airport. But Dublin is a small, walkable city with only 10 or so cars out at any one time—I can’t really see that it works here. Uber has opened their European HQ here, and their goal for Ireland and the rest of Europe, appears to be the same to push for private individuals without commercial licensing or insurance to apply for private hire. It is meeting strong resistance so far by legislators and unions.

What are the challenges of navigating buses and motorcoaches on difficult terrain and roads built before cars?
There are some remote parts of the countryside where roads built in a different age can be quite narrow and slow.


Anthony Green Anthony Withers Green
Director of Global Business of Tristar Worldwide Chauffeur Services (London)
• 38 years in business
• Headquartered in London with additional locations in Boston, New York, Manchester, Paris, and Hong Kong

Number of employees (including drivers)
603

What is the current price of a liter of fuel?
U.K. average diesel price £1.12 per liter; Hong Kong average fuel price 14.41 HKD (approx. $5.88 and $7.44 per U.S. gallon, respectively)

What are the preferred vehicles (model, style) for your market?
Mercedes-Benz E-Class, S-Class, and V-Class (U.K.); Mercedes-Benz S-Class and V-Class, and the Toyota Alphard (Hong Kong)

What is your minimum coverage for insurance?
Although it varies by market, in the U.K. we have £10M GBP public liability insurance, and in Hong Kong, it’s $100M HKD public liability insurance. In the U.S., we typically require $5M in Auto and General Liability coverage as well as Workers’ Compensation coverage that meets state minimum requirements. Coverage can be (and in most instances is) a combination of primary policy and umbrella policy.

If your company operates between countries, what type of documentation is required when crossing borders?
We adhere to local legislation in all markets we operate in—it’s very important to ensure that only companies with proper licenses are utilized, particularly in countries such as China and Hong Kong, as demonstrated by the recent news that some limousine company executives have been jailed in Hong Kong for operating without the correct insurance and licenses.

What are the biggest challenges to operating in your area?
It varies by market, but typically traffic and tighter green legislation are always challenging.

What are some of the issues/differences in operational standards you want your North American counterparts to better understand?
We want to provide a first-class service in every market we operate in, so it’s really important we maintain a consistent level of excellence—it’s something our customers have come to expect. Working together across continents is key to our success.

How much have companies like Uber impacted your area?
It’s not our traditional market (on-demand vs. pre-booked), but we are seeing an impact on personal journeys from our corporate customers and also from some of the more price sensitive segments of the corporate ground transportation market. To date, the impact has not been significant, but we are certainly monitoring this carefully and are concerned about the TNCs’ move to implement pre-booked reservations.

What are the challenges of navigating buses and motorcoaches on difficult terrain (mountains, deserts, etc.) and roads that were built before cars?
Even on a day-to-day basis, it can be challenging for cars around cities like London—our streets are narrow and winding, with lots of parked cars either side. It’s typical of most European cities!


Aditya Loomba Aditya Loomba
CEO of Eco Rent a Car
• 19 years in business
• 650 vehicles operating in India

How much have companies like Uber impacted your area?
The impact of Uber on corporate transportation has not been significant, as safety and security are the primary concern for travelers in India and Asia.

What are the biggest challenges to operating in your area?
The biggest challenge is the number of illegally operating companies who portray themselves as legal operators.

What is the current price of a liter of fuel? Approximately USD $1 (approx. $4 per U.S. gallon)

What are the preferred vehicles for your market?
Mercedes-Benz S-Class, E-Class, and Viano; Toyota Camry and Fortuner SUV; Commuter MPV

What percent of your work is sent through American companies?
10%

What is your minimum coverage for insurance?
All our vehicles are comprehensively insured with unlimited third-party liability.

What are the challenges of navigating buses and motorcoaches on uninviting terrain and roads that were built before cars?
If buses and motorcoaches cannot access a particular kind of terrain, we advise our clients to take minivans and SUVs instead.

What are some of the issues/differences in operational standards you want your North American counterparts to better understand?
In India, chauffeurs’ level of English is basic and they have difficulty understanding the Western accent; therefore, it is always advisable to speak slowly and try to reduce the accent. Also, there is a good opportunity for American operators when they get bookings for airport transfers in India. Usually, 99 percent of clients would require “as directed” service throughout their stay in India, and clients normally just book a hotel car at the front desk. If American operators can offer “as directed” services before clients begin their travel, then the business revenue from the same client can be multiplied.


Joe Luttrell Joe Luttrell
General Manager of Panama Luxury Limousines
• 8 years in business
• 15 vehicles operating in Panama


Number of employees (including drivers)
30

What are the preferred vehicles for your market?
Cadillac Escalades

What percent of your work is sent through American companies?
30%

Are your drivers required to pass background checks? What is the process like?
Yes, we ask for their police records. There is only one station in Panama, which usually has a long line of people waiting outside for their records as they’re being printed out. The process can take an hour or two, and there is no real formality to it.

What are the biggest challenges to operating in your area?
Traffic and flooding are huge issues. Panama is a growing country, and we have had constant construction of roundabouts and metro lines in the past few years. The traffic has been incredibly bad, especially during the start and end of the school year. A 10-minute trip can take up to an hour during rush hours, which range from between 5 a.m. to 9 a.m., 11:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m., and 4:45 p.m. to 7:30 p.m.

During the rainy season (our equivalent of winter), we deal with regular flooding in the streets, requiring SUVs as complimentary upgrades, as lower cars may take in water. The government is actively working to improve the infrastructure; while the work is getting done, higher traffic can exasperate the situation.

As a Panamanian, I can for a fact say that we are not known for being punctual people. This is immediately discussed with all potential hires to make sure they understand that we do not run on “Panama Time.”

What are some of the issues/differences in operational standards you want your North American counterparts to better understand?
If there is a delay because of flooding, there is very little we can do to get around it. It is a regular problem during heavy rain season, we may even end up leaving two hours earlier to get to the airport on time—typically a 15- or 30-minute drive in ideal conditions, as the traffic will be gridlocked for hours during the day.

How much have companies like Uber impacted your area?
On the luxury end, not as much. We have expanded our business to cover hotel needs but we also run taxi services for the hotels, and that is where we are seeing the biggest impact on car services.


Karim Maachi Karim Maachi
CEO of Cardel Global
• 10 years in business
• 35 vehicles operating in France

Number of employees (including drivers)
25

What is the current price of a liter of fuel?
€1.35 (approx. $5 per U.S. gallon)

What are the preferred vehicles for your market? Mercedes-Benz E-Class, S-Class, and V-Class

What percent of your work is sent through American companies? 20%

What is your minimum coverage for insurance? Unlimited

What are the biggest challenges to operating in your area? Our labor laws and the high taxes.

What are some of the issues/differences in operational standards you want your North American counterparts to better understand? Time changes, as well as the distances between our main cities and other European countries—and realistic travel times getting to and from all of them.

How much have companies like Uber impacted your area? It’s had an impact on the hotels’ and travel agencies’ business, but not the corporate business.

Has the Euro simplified billing?
Yes, in Europe.


Robson Maciel Robson Maciel CCO–Director Commercial of Chauffeur Services Brazil
• 29 years in business
• 50 vehicles operating in Brazil

How much have companies like Uber impacted your area?
Once Uber entered the city of São Paulo, demand among corporate customers fell. Their quality was excellent then but nowadays, Uber leaves much to be desired: Their drivers are on the road almost 24 hours a day, many are unprofessional, and they have low-quality cars. Many of our customers who value integrity and security have returned to use our services after trying them.

What are the biggest challenges to operating in your area?
The biggest challenge we face are companies and independent drivers who have no insurance, haven’t completed specialized courses for professional drivers, and offer service with impracticable low prices. Companies that pay all their taxes on time and comply with laws and licenses to maintain our business can’t fairly compete.

What is the current price of a liter of fuel?
Gasoline is BRL 4.00 (or about $5 per U.S. gallon) and ethanol is BRL 2.15, (or about $2.68 per U.S. gallon) and about 20% more in Rio.

Is documentation required when crossing borders?
We actually need documentation to cross from one Brazilian state to another. 

What are the preferred vehicles for your market?
For standard vehicles, Toyota Camry, Hyundai Azera, and Kia Cadenza. For luxury sedans, Jaguar, Mercedes-Benz, BMW, and Audi.  What percent of your work is sent through American companies?
20%

What is your minimum coverage for insurance?
Our civil liability insurance is BRL 4,750,000.

What are the challenges of navigating buses and motorcoaches on uninviting terrain and roads that were built before cars?
This is a major challenge, despite having modern vehicles equipped with the latest technology. It’s a shame to put these types of vehicles on unpaved surfaces. We try to avoid it when we can, and depending on the ground conditions, we do not authorize the vehicles to do the services. In some cases, we will navigate these difficult terrains: At the end of the service, we will do a complete cleaning of the vehicle—including the air pipe, outside and inside—and renew the lubrication of suspensions.

What are some of the issues/differences in operational standards you want your North American counterparts to better understand?
From many years serving American companies, we learned a lot from them because we are fully aware that they are the most professional in this executive transport segment. Even the system that runs our company was purchased in the United States. Some issues we face are when U.S. companies’ clients are not very accepting that in some cities in the interior of Brazil, the most sophisticated model of vehicle is a Toyota Corolla—a model that does not satisfy the standards for American corporate travelers. And that goes for other cities around Latin America, too. 


Ilpo Makinen Ilpo Makinen
Sales & Operations Director of Limousine Service Ltd.
• 35 years in business
• 18 vehicles operating in Finland

What is the current price of a liter of fuel?
€1.38 for gasoline and €1.16 for diesel (approx. $6.16 and $5.16 respectively per U.S. gallon). The tax on each of these is more than 50%. What are the preferred vehicles (model, style) for your market?
Mercedes-Benz E-Class, S-Class, and Viano/V-Class are the majority of our executive fleet. We also offer the Volvo S80 for a specific market as a value sedan. The use of North American vehicles is practically nonexistent, as taxation rules make the importing of these vehicles financially unattractive and local dealerships do not offer the proper maintenance services for them.

If your company operates between countries, what type of documentation is required when crossing borders?
Travel within the European Union and/or within the Nordic countries is very seamless. Traveling to Russia requires a visa and special documentation because of insurance, but as we provide services to Russia fairly frequently, we have these issues covered.

What are the biggest challenges to operating in your area?
As with all operators in the Nordic countries, the cost of operating a ground transportation business is very high. This has very much to do with taxation, both for vehicles and for fuel. In addition, the insurance for vehicles registered in professional use is very costly. The mandatory insurance, determined by Finnish law, covers all actual costs related to an incident. These are mainly the reasons why customers and partners often see our market as expensive.

What are some of the issues/differences in operational standards you want your North American counterparts to better understand?
Although the markets in the Nordic countries are small, it is often easier to adapt to customers’ needs—all you all to do is ask for special accommodations and we will work with you to meet them.

How much have companies like Uber impacted your area?
There have been attempts to enter the Finnish market, primarily Helsinki, but the entry has been challenged by two major factors: legal matters and the small market size. Very recently, a driver was convicted and heavily fined for not having the required license and documentation to run and operate a chauffeured car business. Insurance issues play a significant role in the local chauffeur business, as these drivers are not eligible for insurance for professional use, and thus do not possess adequate coverage for the safety of the passengers.

What are the challenges of navigating buses and motorcoaches on difficult terrain (mountains, deserts, etc.) and roads that were built before cars?
The Finnish road network is in good condition and does not pose these problems. But there are situations, especially in the winter, when road conditions are challenging and more time is required to perform even a basic transfer. Generally, we plan ahead, allocate a generous amount of time, and determine alternate routes before each service takes place.

Has the Euro simplified billing?
Billing is relatively simple with countries using the Euro—Finland is using it, too. The common currency also allows easier management and payment of services outside one’s own domestic market. In addition, the common currency eliminates or reduces the bank transaction costs.


Ramon Mateos Ramon Mateos
President of Alquimavi Executive Car
• 24 years in business
• 35 vehicles operating in Mexico

What is the current price of a liter of fuel?
USD $0.83 (approx. $3.32 per U.S. gallon)

What are the preferred vehicles for your market?
Lincoln MKS and Navigator; Cadillac Escalade; Ford Expedition MAX; Audi; Mercedes-Benz

What percent of your work is sent through American companies?
45%

What are the biggest challenges to operating in your area?
“Ghost” executive transportation companies, or the “homemade companies” that are basically gypsy operators, are our market’s biggest challenge.

What are some of the issues/differences in operational standards you want your North American counterparts to better understand?
Other operators are often surprised by our local traffic issues and how they affect travel times, as well as how we are allowed to meet passengers at airports.

How much have companies like Uber impacted your area?
No impact, because they serve a different market than we do.


Ralf Rehder Ralf Rehder
Owner of QLimo/Action Worldwide Limousines
• 14 years in business
• 65 vehicles operating in Germany

How much have companies like Uber impacted your area?
They have and they have not. They haven’t because TNCs like Uber or Blacklane are focusing on a different type of traveler, like those who would usually use a cab but would be willing to pay a bit more for a better standard. Our companies focus on discriminating clients who require the best highly individualized service that is available in the market; VIPs who need that maximum confidentiality; and specialized travel agencies who want the security and assurance that their clients are in safe, experienced, and reliable hands.

It has impacted our business because TNCs have set new technological standards that companies of the “old” transportation service industry have to catch up to, whether they want to or not. This includes online booking tools, instant status messages, easily accessible customer front-end solutions, and, of course, smart-phone optimized options. As most European companies are relatively small, they might not be able to manage the investment of updating their technology considerably, and thus might find themselves being left behind those companies who do risk this investment. Already, companies are now forming networks to face those challenges.

What are the biggest challenges to operating in your area?
For historical reasons, it has always been the biggest challenge for all European companies to serve a niche market with relatively small operations, a relatively small customer base, and relatively high costs compared to the U.S. Our regulations have become stricter in the recent past. Working-hours acts have been applied to our industry much more than they have in the past. This brings the extraordinary challenge to match the requirements of top VIP services, like having a chauffeur at their disposal for the entire day when there are relevant laws regulating their working hours and rest times.

It’s also the government’s endeavor to bring as many workers as possible into companies to support the state’s social security systems and health systems. The status of so-called independent contractors has been questioned by the authorities, and subcontracting companies have been forced to pay the social security contributions retroactively; therefore, companies in our local industry had to completely stop using independent contractors. This again, given the usual small sizes of European companies, is about to bring those businesses into the pitfall of either raising their employment costs considerably or risking failure to comply with the existing laws. Another reason why European companies have to run their operations at relatively high costs is the expectation of the customers: European customers are familiar with premium vehicles from their own background. They would not accept anything less than premium in chauffeured services, or else they would rather use a cab.

What is the current price of a liter of fuel?
USD $1.13 for diesel and USD $1.38 for regular (approx. $4.52 and $5.52 respectively per U.S. gallon)

What are the preferred vehicles for your market?
Mercedes-Benz E-Class and S-Class; Cadillac Escalade and CT6

What percent of your work is sent through American companies?
35%

What is your minimum coverage for insurance? Liability coverage is €100M and €8M per person for personal injuries. This is the coverage per vehicle, as the German insurance system is different from the U.S. system. Insurance is always—and only—applied to the vehicle, not to the company. This is why we can’t add our affiliate partner companies on our insurance certificate as additionally insured, which is requested from time to time.

Are your drivers required to pass background checks?
Background checks are handled differently among the European chauffeur companies. We require the following: A certificate of conduct, issued by the local police authorities; medical testing of health, eyesight, and capacity of reaction; and a report from the national register of traffic offense. All of these serve as a requirement to achieve and to keep the chauffeur’s license. In addition, we make use of the German obligation to register and validate personal data, including address data provided through the ID cards of the employees. Chauffeurs have to pass a drug test regularly, especially in suspected cases of usage. More than that, we also do a comparison of our chauffeurs’ data with the terrorist watch list of the Council of the European Union.

Has the Euro simplified billing?
It has tremendously. By using the same currency, all calculation risks caused by floating exchange rates have vanished. Billing and being paid in one currency eliminates discrepancies and facilitates the accounting processes. Receiving and paying in one currency eliminates conversion fees demanded by banks. Being in one currency allows online payment and avoids the use of manual forms. It also makes payment much faster.

What are some of the issues/differences in operational standards you want your North American counterparts to better understand?
First: I keep having a hard time explaining that our rate structure has to be more complex than what you use in the U.S. American operators have a simple rate structure with just two types (transfer and hourly). Within the city, you use a minor amount of kilometers, but if it comes to extensive itineraries from city to city, you can easily travel hundreds of kilometers just within one day. German Autobahns allow fast driving and, with the given costs of fuel and the car itself, mileage-intense bookings have to be charged differently.

Second: Facing the general situation of European companies like described above (small operations/high costs vs. strict regulations), hourly minimums and cancellation policies have to be treated differently. We’re well aware that U.S.-based customers are looking at that issue from their country’s perspective but for me, it would be reasonable to find compromises in handling those booking conditions.

Third: In Europe, there’s no system like gratuity charges being collected by the employer. That’s why the question “Is gratuity included in the rate?” needs to be answered with a “yes” and a “no.” “Yes” because the rate itself has no hidden surcharges, and “No” because chauffeurs are obviously happy to be tipped if the client thinks the service he received was according to his expectation—or better, was exceeding his expectations.


Michael Svetlik Michael Svetlik
Supervisor of RSL Premium Chauffeured Services
• 9 years in business
• 30 vehicles operating in Austria

What is the current price of a liter of fuel?
€1.068 for unleaded and €0.974 for diesel (approx. $4.76 and $4.32 respectively per U.S. gallon)

What are the preferred vehicles (model, style) for your market?
Mercedes-Benz E-Class, V-Class, and S-Class

What percent of your work is sent through American companies?
75% What is your minimum coverage for insurance?
€6,000,000

What type of documentation is required when crossing borders?
Normally, there are no border controls within the Schengen Area, but they could be reinstated by goverment order at any time. It’s mandatory to have valid travel documents with you when crossing the border, whether there are border controls or not.

What are the biggest challenges to operating in your area?
Pointing out the difference between limousine service and regular taxi service. Mostly local companies aren’t able, or are just not willing, to see a difference between those two types of services and the pricing.

What are some of the issues/differences in operational standards you want your North American counterparts to better understand?
Verbally confirming rides with chauffeurs more than one hour prior to pickup time is not done.

How much have companies like Uber impacted your area?
No impact felt. It’s just another low-price company to challenge legal operators.

What are the challenges of navigating buses and motorcoaches on difficult terrain and roads that were built before cars? The routing for motorcoaches needs to be checked in advance because a lot of streets within the cities are very narrow. There are also different government restrictions for different regions.


Ralph-Martin Trummel Ralph-Martin Trummel
Managing Director of Astro Limousine Service Ltd
• 30 years in business
• 18 vehicles operating in Switzerland

What is the current price of a liter of fuel?
Gas is CHF 1.40-CHF 1.56 (approx. $5.60-$6.40 per U.S. gallon); diesel is CHF 1.35-CHF 1.52 (approx. $5.56-$6.24 per U.S. gallon)

What are the preferred vehicles (model, style) for your market?
Mercedes S-Class, E-Class, and V-Class

What percent of your work is sent through American companies?
30%

What are the biggest challenges to operating in your area?
High operating costs and justifying our prices to clients who don’t realize that Switzerland is the most expensive country in the world top the list—we have gotten into price fights with operators before. There are also too few regulations by the government.

What are some of the issues/differences in operational standards you want your North American counterparts to better understand?
The biggest issues we have to explain are why we have the kind of pricing we do and respecting the time difference. We are pleased to answer phone calls 24/7, but operators often forget that they may be calling us in the middle of the night.

How much have companies like Uber impacted your area?
Currently, it’s only a challenge for taxi companies but it’s only a matter of time before it affects us all.

What are the challenges of navigating buses and motorcoaches on difficult terrain (mountains, deserts, etc.) and roads that were built before cars?
The roads in Switzerland are great! The only challenge we face is ice and snow during the winter, and we won’t run our classic fleet in those conditions.

Has the Euro simplified billing?
Au contraire! The Swiss Franc became very expensive through the past few years, so it’s quite difficult to deal with Euro countries, as well as with the U.S. dollar.


Ralph van Delden Ralph van Delden
President of Van Delden Corporate Limo Services
• 128 years in business
• 25 vehicles operating in Holland

Number of employees (including drivers)
40

What is the current price of a liter of fuel?
Petrol costs €1.59 and diesel costs €1.23 (approx. $7.08 and $5.48 respectively per U.S. gallon)

What are the preferred vehicles for your market?
For sedans, the Mercedes-Benz E-Class and S-Class. For executive vans, Mercedes-Benz V-Class and Sprinters.

What percent of your work is sent through American companies?
35%

What is your minimum coverage for insurance?
Our minimum coverage for damage caused by the insured vehicle is €5.600.000 for personal damage and €2.500.000 for material damage.

If your company operates between countries, what type of documentation is required when crossing borders? It depends on the country. Within the European Union, there are no borders and no passport checks; however, it is always required to carry a valid ID.

What are the biggest challenges to operating in your area?
In The Netherlands, it is very easy to get an operational license to start a chauffeured ground transportation company, so there are many one-man operations that are providing services for very low costs. Those companies don’t have an office or any other overhead costs, and are able to provide their services at a rate cheaper than a regular taxi. These types of companies are very keen on working with five-star hotels, which makes it very difficult for us as a company with a fleet and staff to compete. Our strength is providing better service with an office to assist at any time and not have a chauffeur who is driving and running a company at the same time.

How much have companies like Uber impacted your area?
At the moment, Uber has the biggest impact at the street taxi market. Uber is well known for being cheaper than a regular taxi and easier with payment. Uber is convenient for individual travelers, but we work for companies that arrange transportation for their people. What are the challenges of navigating buses and motorcoaches on difficult terrain (mountains, deserts, etc.) and roads that were built before cars? The biggest challenge I would say are the city centers of our main cities, particularly Amsterdam. Bigger motorcoaches are no longer permitted in every part of the center. In the future, it looks like it will only become more difficult.

Has the Euro simplified billing?
Yes, the Euro has simplified billing for us. The improvement is mainly because there are no differences in currencies anymore. At the end of the month, there would be a big discrepancy due to a country’s currency increasing or decreasing in value. Also, when sending rates to a client, the Euro saves time because you no longer have to calculate the different currencies.


Amy Yan Amy Yan
Cofounder and Managing Partner of AmyExpress
• 8 years in business
• 28 vehicles operating in China

How much have companies like Uber impacted your area?
The rise of TNCs, in our opinion, has little negative impact on our business growth in China for a number of reasons. First of all, our targeted customer base is totally different from those of TNCs, in the fact that our clients need 100-percent reliability and consistency of professionally chauffeur-driven services, which no TNCs can provide today. We believe we are service-oriented for client satisfaction, while they are technology savvy for dispatch efficiency.

Secondly, the market potential in executive ground transportation in China is huge enough to accommodate traditional and emerging types of competition alike. According to a report by Roland Berger in January 2016, the chauffeured business volume in China is expected to grow to approximately RMB 500 billion (USD $70B) by end of 2020 with a compounded annualized growth rate of 129% from 2015.

Thirdly, TNCs have become, whether you like or not, part of the ecosystem of chauffeured service industry leveraging their technological strengths, which in turn incentivizes us to invest on technology to catch up. Since we remain innovative as TNCs and in the same time make effort to enhance individual clients’ experiences, we don’t anticipate much impact.

In China, central government in general is supportive of the concept of the “sharing economy” but local governments tend to be cautious in favor of protecting traditional operators. The debate is still ongoing as to how to strike the good balance between encouraging renovations and avoiding policy arbitrage.

Editor’s note: Uber China recently merged with the dominant ride-sharing company in China, Didi. This move gives the joint company about 95 percent market share in the country.

What are the biggest challenges to operating in your area?
Google maps don’t work well in China and the Baidu maps don’t work well outside of China. Therefore, the online reservation more often than not fail to pop up the correct pickup or drop-off addresses, which may cause less user-friendly experience.

What is the current price of a liter of fuel?
In Beijing, USD $1.50; in Hong Kong, USD $2.00 (approx. $6 and $8 respectively per U.S. gallon)

Are drivers salaried employees or independent contractors?
We have a combination of salaried drivers and independent contractors.

What are the preferred vehicles (model, style) for your market?
Audi A6L and Buick SUVs in Beijing; Mercedes-Benz S350/500 and Toyota Alphard in Hong Kong

What percent of your work is sent through American companies?
5%

What are some of the issues/differences in operational standards you want your North American counterparts to better understand?
English-speaking drivers are rare. We have to be honest and mention that not many professional drivers in China speak English well. People who can speak English usually are offered higher-paying jobs than being a chauffeur. Some companies may claim they have English-speaking drivers but would most likely turn out to be disappointing to their customers.

What we would do is to inform the drivers of detailed itineraries well in advance where possible. At the same time, our centralized service representatives who are excellent in English would maintain real-time contact with our drivers on the ground to facilitate the communications with our customers. Simply, our foreign guests would only need to contact our general service line free of charge in case any assistance is needed. Moreover, the rise of WhatsApp, WeChat, Line, and similar services has by and large removed such language barriers.

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