iCars President Daniel Shifrin, affiliate manager Wayne Aoraha, and iCars partner Gary Bauer at the GCLA Expo, Thursday, Sept. 24, 2015, in Costa Mesa, Calif. (Photo by Tim Crowley/LCT)
COSTA MESA, Calif. — A recent presentation from the president of an app platform for luxury chauffeured vehicles underscores how the limousine industry has put forward competitive alternatives to Uber.
Dan Shifrin of iCars took to the stage at a Greater California Livery Association event for the first time Sept. 24 to herald the app’s superior versatility in booking a luxury vehicle that meets the industry’s elite standards and checks and balances. The app, started in 2013, now boasts 2,500 operators integrating to its platform and offers rides in San Francisco. iCars plans a rollout to the Los Angeles area this fall.
“The good news is we have the opportunity to get together and unite, and provide enough supply so when consumers or business travelers open up an app, they will find a ride,” Shifrin told attendees at the annual GCLA Expo in Costa Mesa.
iCars also works with hotels, airlines and Fortune 500 companies. Unlike Uber, iCars offers both on-demand rides and advanced reservations with layers of client controls and preferences. It exclusively uses vetted, legal licensed limousine operators and vehicles, aiming to avoid the safety, insurance and criminal background check loopholes routinely exploited by Uber. The pricing and rates may exceed those of Uber, but then iCars offers a safety, higher quality experience designed to appeal to the corporate market.
“We need to pool our resources together under one app or several apps that all talk to each other that enable the consumer to be able see a car and get a ride in under 10 minutes,” Shifrin said. “Corporate clients are still interested in chauffeured transportation; they just don’t have an option today. When they have enough supply, they are willing to work with us because they don’t want their travelers using Uber.”
The iCars platform allows on-demand rides, advanced reservations, third-party bookings, and group reservations. Each operator or company that participates can customize parameters. “iCars enables you to create a private network with your own clients and affiliates you determine,” Shifrin said. “Then you also have the option of an open market that can drive business to you.”
By providing on-demand rides between scheduled reservations, iCars can increase revenue per chauffeured vehicle, he said. “And by providing the technology, we can reduce your cost per vehicle and your costs on technology.”
Shifrin, whose 20-year background in the technology sector includes stints with ZipCar and Limos.com, has partnered with San Francisco operator Gary Bauer, who has 26 years of experience in ground transportation. Bauer owns Bauer’s Intelligent Transportation of San Francisco, a 318-vehicle limo and bus company ranked No. 6 on the 2015 LCT 50 Largest Fleets List.
iCars joins a growing field of luxury vehicle on-demand apps in various stages of service and development, including ones by Deem, Blacklane, MiRide, Whisk and Ground Widgets. The apps offer all the things Uber does not: An on-time luxury vehicle with adequate insurance coverage driven by a background checked professional chauffeur.
While Uber faces a formidable morass of legal, regulatory and safety problems amid criminal incidents and drivers disgruntled over low pay, it nevertheless keeps growing. The TNC now spans 200,000 vehicles in 300 cities worldwide with an estimated overall market valuation of $50 billion. Uber, with more than 12 million users overall, last quarter collected 47% of all business traveler receipts for ground transportation, Shifrin said.
“If we don’t act in the next 24 months and get together and pool our supply, I worry that we’re going to turn around and Uber will have 98% of the corporate business out there and we’ll be marginalized working in the C suite.”