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Astro Limousine operator Ralph-Martin Truemmel offers an AWD fleet of luxury vehicles, with the Mercedes S-Class pictured here and the VW Phaeton V-12 as the leading rented vehicles.
ZURICH, Switzerland — Ralph-Martin Truemmel and the owners of Astro Limousine Service pull off a business feat that sounds intimidating: Running a profitable limousine service with a $200,000 Mercedes-Benz as the top vehicle amid one of the highest costs of living in the world. Yet Astro has been serving a chauffeured clientele for almost 30 years in all types of European and global economic cycles. Truemmel shared his insights recently about his challenges and successes managing a chauffeured vehicle service in Switzerland, a global financial capital.
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What is unique about chauffeured services in your nation compared to the U.S.?
Switzerland is one of the most expensive countries in the world, not only to live in but also on the part of the chauffeured transportation industry. On the quality of service, it’s about the same as in the U.S. There are premium class companies, second class providers and beyond.
Limo Service and Living Costs
- Mercedes S 500 L (Astro Limousine: $195,000
- standard, incl. mandatory blackbox)
- Insurance for a Mercedes S 500 L (per year): $7,000
- Hourly rate for mechanic (Mercedes / VW): $200
- Road tax (per year): $1,400
- Parking garage in the city center (per month): $650-$1350
- Carwash: $22.50
- Fuel per gallon (gas): $7.45
- Average driver’s salary (per month): $5,500
- Monthly rent 2 Bedroom flat (minimum): $1,600
- Health insurance (minimum per year): $4,500
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What are key challenges of your service area/region?
As Zurich is the financial and banking capital of Switzerland, we are dealing with a big roadshow market. Switzerland acts as host for several international events like the “World Economic Forum,” “Basel World” (the world’s biggest jewelry and Watch fair), and the “Art Basel” (one of the most important art fairs/exhibitions in the world). That means huge logistical efforts for us and the chauffeur driven industry. Switzerland is surrounded by Germany, Italy, France, Austria and Lichtenstein. So we have to cope with providers from abroad, who offer illegal “bootlegged” service to clients in our country. Platforms such as Uber, BlackLane and MyDriver are trying to establish themselves. They do not play in the same quality league as we do, but are influencing prices.
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What qualities do you look for in a U.S. affiliate?
It’s important that affiliates belong to their local and/or national association. Although it is easier to work with so called international providers, I prefer companies that run their own fleets in their area(s).
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What specific rules or procedures do U.S. operators need to be aware of when affiliating in your nation?
Make sure your affiliate is a member of the “SLA — Swiss Limousine Association,” which engages its members to comply with all regulations according to Swiss law.