Is Uber killing off luxury chauffeurs?


Nargis Jafferali

Is Uber killing off luxury chauffeurs?

In March 2009, the world awoke to a new era of transportation and Uber was born. What started out with just two friends who couldn’t get a taxi in Paris coming up with a simple solution to a common problem, has swiftly become an international business giant, with revenues in 2018 of over $11 billion and over 16,000 employees worldwide.

In the early stages, the company was never seen as anything more than a cheap way of travelling a short distance, often last-minute, quickly at the touch of a button. But there’s no doubt that the growth of technology in society, particularly mobile applications, paves the way perfectly for Uber’s successful business model. They offer cheaper rates and an undeniably easy-to-use mobile experience.

These days, however, its dominance as [often] the go-to transport service in many major cities is causing concern amongst private taxi and personal chauffeuring firms. We consider whether there is space in the market for both, or is Uber’s continued rise endangering everyone else’s future?

Executive travel is understandably more expensive than catching a ride with Uber. But, as with most things in life, you certainly get what you pay for. The reliability of a reputable high-class service, the reassurance that you’ll reach your destination on time, expert knowledge of the routes, the comfort of travelling in style, and the flexibility of travelling longer distances etc – there are plenty of reasons why customers may still prefer this option, and may even go on to hire a private chauffeur on a long-term basis to become a member of their personal household staff.

A private chauffeur can be so much more than an excellent driver – a companion to the client, a watchful eye both on and off the roads, a confidante that knows when to remain neutral in opinion, and a reliable presence waiting by the side of the road that also knows when to remain inconspicuous. For those that chauffeur busy working clients, no single day can be the same – whether it’s hours spent waiting for their client to finish a meeting, last-minute issues with their vehicle that need fixing (and quick), or a day travelling miles on end from place to place…but all needing to be done with a positive attitude and a smile.

Whilst the success of Uber and it’s expansion internationally has enabled the existence of more drivers available across more and more cities, their model with regards to training new drivers is the same – non-existent! Uber drivers need only have knowledge of operating a car and a clean criminal record. Yes, there are resources to assist new recruits understand more about the human interaction of the job, but these only come from an App-based platform or from ‘tips and tricks’ on the Uber website. It’s not an ideal way of educating and enhancing a luxury customer experience and the standard of service that comes from using a professional chauffeur.

Uber cannot provide training because accordingly to regulations their drivers are classified as contractors and not employees. By changing this, you end up with higher costs and a shattered business model that’s the heart of its profitability.

So, why are professional chauffeurs so concerned then? Well, who knows what the founding entrepreneurs have planned for the next chapter of the fascinating Uber story. But perhaps it’s safe to say that, for the time being, our roads are large enough for both!

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